Feds launch multimillion-dollar dome project to provide shelter during hurricanes, at least for some Gulf Coast residents


Displaying an eagerness to burnish a reputation earned by its response to Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has embarked on a $50 million plan to build hurricane-proof domes along the Gulf Coast of Texas.

More like a $60 or a $70 million plan when you count the local money going into it.

And what will taxpayers be getting for their money? Thirty-five domes for 1,000 people each - 4,000 in an absolute pinch - able to withstand a 250 mph tornado or a 175 mph hurricane, the Houston Chronicle is reporting today.

Kountze and Lumberton in coastal Hardin County are pretty danged happy about their domes today, too.

That’s shelter for up to 140,000 people in a 13-county coastal region of roughly 6.5 million people. Finally, a place for all those Texans who stock up on candles and liquor, surf the Gulf, lash themselves to trees and otherwise refuse to flee a hurricane.

And, according to the story, they make swell community centers during down time.

The dome plan is part of FEMA’s Texas Safe Shelter Initiative, which began in December 2009 with a $1.5 million grant procured for the Woodsboro Independent School District by Texas Congressman Ruben Hinojosa.

The program is a likely boon to ABC Domes, conveniently located in Sealy, one of the few companies in the country building this kind of dome, using spray-on concrete over steel reinforcement.

While its developers haven’t considered it because federal tax money is free, the extremely limited capacity of the domes offers opportunities for communities to recover some of their investment through reserved seating.

Just a suggestion.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Aerial photo of Hurricane Jeanne in 2004 by flickr user kakela, used via a Creative Commons license.