EDNA, Tex. (AP) Most of the time, the windowless building with the dome-shaped roof will be a typical high school gymnasium filled with cheering fans watching basketball and volleyball games.
But come hurricane season, the structure will double as a shelter from the weather, part of an ambitious storm-defense system that is taking shape along hundreds of miles of the Texas coast.
Its rugged construction, including double-layer cinder-block walls reinforced by heavy-duty steel bars and cement piers that plunge 30 feet into the ground, should allow it to withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour.
There is nothing standard about the building, Bob Wells, the superintendent of the Edna school district, said as he stood inside the $2.5 million gym, which is scheduled to be completed by March. The only standard stuff is going to be the stuff we do inside.
The Edna dome is one of 28 such buildings being planned to protect sick, elderly and other residents who might be unable to evacuate the area before a hurricane. First responders and local officials will also be able to take refuge in the domes, allowing them to begin recovery efforts faster.
Storm-defense structures have been receiving more attention sinceHurricane Sandystruck the East Coast in late October. New York City, for instance, isconsideringa multibillion-dollar system of sea barriers.
The new dome in Edna, Tex., will also serve as a high school gymnasium. The $2.5 million structure, mostly financed by FEMA, is designed to withstand winds of up to 200 miles per hour.
For Texas, the domes, which are being built with help from theFederal Emergency Management Agency, offer an extra benefit: they can be recreation or community centers when not needed as shelters.
I think its good for FEMA, and I think its good for us, Mr. Wells said. And I think its good for the taxpayers.
The gym in Edna, a town of 5,500 about 100 miles southwest of Houston, is the second hurricane dome in Texas. The first was built last year in Woodsboro, near Corpus Christi. Most of the domes will be about 20,000 square feet.
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The plan calls for structures in 11 counties in the Rio Grande Valley, in the area around Corpus Christi and along the coast from Victoria to Newton Counties, said Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
So far, $34.5 million has been awarded. This month, FEMA approved money for a dome in Brownsville that will be a community center, one in Bay City that will be a wellness and physical rehabilitation center, and two in Kingsville that will be multipurpose training centers.
Inside the gym in Edna, Mr. Wellss voice echoed as he pointed to the ceiling, which has layers of concrete, insulation and rebar. The doorways are covered by awnings of heavy-gauge metal.
FEMA is paying for 75 percent of the domes, with local communities picking up the remaining cost.
The financing is part of the agencys efforts to help homeowners and communities build shelters from extreme weather. Nationwide, more than $683 million has been awarded in 18 states.
A version of this article appears in print on December 30, 2012, on Page A17 of theNew York editionwith the headline: Dual-Use Domes Are Shelter in a Storm.Order ReprintsTodays PaperSubscribe
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