Hatley dome

The dome in Hatley, Mississippi. The structure in Hamilton is identical to it. (Scott Cantrell)

Another state follows trend with storm shelters

Monolithic Domes are starting to become more popular for schools as more districts build storm shelters. Some of the latest are in Mississippi.

The Monroe County School District in Mississippi has added two new Monolithic Domes to its schools. Both Hamilton School and Hatley School had storm shelter projects finish in recent months, adding to the one already in Smithville. These domes, described as “twin projects,” each have an area of 7,900 square feet.

Both projects were constructed to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 361 guidelines for tornado and hurricane safe rooms. Funds for the project were from a mixture of school district and hazard mitigation grant funds from the Mississippi Emergency Management Association. The cost for each project was $140 per square foot.

The domes were built in conjunction by two separate companies. South Industries built the dome structure, and Century Construction was the general contractor tasked with completing the structures.

According to superintendent Scott Cantrell, the low cost of a Monolithic Dome was a factor in the process of choosing the design. “Pricing for the dome facility was much more budget friendly than a hardened, conventional construction project,” he stated. He also added they chose the dome “due to the optimal open floor plan design lending itself to convenience in constructing a safe room that can also be used for special programs and special education activities.”

The safety of the domes was also a major factor in choosing the design. It has proved useful already; Cantrell reported there has been a tornado warning in the area since the domes were completed. Community members gathered at both of the newly completed facilities during that time. “It was great that we could provide some of our community members a safe place while the tornado warning was in place,” he said.

This area of the state is no stranger to tornadoes. As recently as 2011, an EF-5 storm ripped through Smithville, with its path running right into the high school. This storm and its destruction are what led the district to build the domes.

The superintendent was told about Monolithic Domes for rebuilding, and from there he began to look into them. After a trip to Italy, Texas and touring various domes, he was sold on the idea. “I knew this was the direction we wanted to go on constructing a multi-purpose facility,” he stated, “so we hoped there might be a way to do so.” After grant funding came in, the project became a reality, further helping to protect the community in an area at risk for tornadoes.

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Gym inside dome

The gymnasium inside the Hamilton dome. This multi-purpose room also serves as the community gathering place in event of a natural disaster. (Jon South)

Hamilton dome

The Hamilton dome, identical to the Hatley one. (Jon South)