Pandemic Complicates Preparations for Hurricane Season

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Hurricane Michael slammed into the Gulf Coast of Florida in October 2018.

Hurricane season starts June 1. That’s nothing new for those who live along the Gulf Coast, but what is new this year is the fact hurricane season will happen during the coronavirus pandemic. Evelina Burnett of Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Tegan Wendland of WWNO in New Orleans and WBHM’s Andrew Yeager described how officials in their respective states are preparing.

How Shelters May Change

  • Mississippi officials estimate shelters may only hold a third of normal capacity because of social distancing.
  • Louisiana emergency leaders have discussed checking temperatures and separating those who may show signs of COVID-19.
  • Another concern is that some volunteers are older and could be at higher risk of complications if they are infected.

Challenges for Emergency Responders

  • Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency director said they’d normally operate with 125 people in a command center. Instead, they’re figuring out how to best communicate with people working remotely.
  • Officials in Louisiana held an exercise with the National Weather Service this week to identify weaknesses. They’re hoping any major storms will come later in the season when presumably the pandemic will have waned somewhat.

How Residents Should Prepare

  • Officials recommend taking more time to put together hurricane kits since stores may be out of some supplies.
  • They suggest including protective items such as hand sanitizer and masks.
  • If evacuating to another family member or friend’s home, check first to make sure he or she is comfortable with it.

This conversation was part of a regional collaboration of public radio stations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

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