Hurricane season is fast approaching. As if this isn’t stressful enough, now we have to face the possibility that we also have to worry about COVID-19 at the same time. The threat of the disease has increased the tension and intensity of hurricane preparation.
While it’s impossible to accurately predict what the future will hold, experts at Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science are trying. The Department put together a Tropical Meteorology Project that analyzed weather patterns to create a projection of the 2020 hurricane season. Based on their calculations, 2020 will have 16 different named storms, including eight different hurricanes. Four of those hurricanes will reach or exceed Category 3. There is a 70 percent chance that one of those predicted Category 3 storms will wreak havoc on the Gulf Coast/East Coast.
Will COVID-19 be an issue during hurricane season?
COVID-19 is like nothing we’ve experienced in the past. No one is 100% certain what will happen this summer, but most scientists who specialize in diseases believe that while the virus will likely slow down in the warmer months, they don’t anticipate it disappearing.
A study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explored the spread of COVID-19 in warm, humid climates and observed that the spread of the virus was significantly slower than in other climates. This would indicate that when hurricane season arrives, the virus shouldn’t be moving quickly. While this is encouraging, the scientists involved in the study are quick to point out that it wasn’t a perfect study. Not only was it conducted during a short period, but the climates investigated also have a much smaller population than many areas in the United States, including Florida.
In the case of COVID-19 and the upcoming hurricane season, it’s best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Tips for preparing for hurricane season during the COVID-19 pandemic
Since the best plan of attack during these unusual times is preparing for the worse, it’s in your best interest to start figuring out how you intend to handle the dual threats of hurricane season and COVID-19 right now. Advance planning gives you time to consider every possible contingency and make sure that things are set up so that you and your loved ones weather both storms.
Have plenty of supplies on hand
The pandemic has already put a massive strain on our ability to procure necessities such as food, first aid supplies, water, toiletries, and clothing. Adding a hurricane to the mix won’t improve the situation. While you probably can’t go to the store and stock up on the essentials you’ll need if you’re trapped in your home by a hurricane or a virus, you can start to steadily create a stockpile of the supplies you need. Each time you go grocery shopping, pick up a few extra things, such as canned goods, bleach, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer that you add to your cache of hurricane supplies. Knowing that you have all of these things on hand buys you peace of mind.
Take care of your medical needs
If you or someone you live with relies on prescription drugs to maintain their health, having enough of these medications on hand isn’t something you want to leave to chance. As soon as you’re able, speak to your doctor about your concerns regarding the pandemic colliding with hurricane season and determine what can be done to make sure you have enough medication on hand in case weeks pass before you can reach a pharmacy.
Put together a go-bag for each member of your family
The one nice thing about hurricanes is that they rarely hit without warning. Rather than waiting to see how bad things will get or if an evacuation is ordered, as soon as you get word that a hurricane is possible, pack a go-bag for each member of your family. In the past, these go-bags only needed to contain clothing and some basic necessities, but that’s changed. Thanks to COVID-19, it’s difficult to know what will and won’t be available once you leave your hometown. In addition to clothing, make sure you stock your go-bags with pet supplies, food, and medical supplies. Make sure everyone in your family has plenty of hand sanitizer, soap, gloves, and face masks.
Don’t count on the hurricane shelters
The biggest challenge COVID-19 places on the 2020 hurricane season is sheltering. The amount of space needed to help keep everyone healthy from this disease makes traditional hurricane sheltering options problematic. Local and state governments are already exploring how they’ll deal with this potentially hazardous situation. The director of Miami-Dade County, Frank Rollason, has concerns about what will happen if a hurricane hits the area. Not only is he worried about how they’ll provide people with enough space to safely shelter, but also whether people will even feel comfortable enough to seek out the safety of hurricane shelters if they require it.
“The biggest issue we’re facing is the sheltering of people in cramped-in areas,” said Rollason. “We’ve told people to stay away from each other for so long that if a hurricane comes and we need to open shelters, we’re fearful that they won’t come.”
Normally, FEMA can be counted on to step up and provide a great deal of assistance during hurricanes, but the pandemic means that FEMA’s resources are already stretched thin. It’s unclear how much they’ll be able to offer in the way of supplies. If you are no longer safe at your home, do seek shelter, but make sure you bring your gloves, face masks, and hand sanitizer. It’s also a good idea to bring some disinfectant so that you can continually sanitize your space.
Florida’s local and state government is concerned enough about the double whammy of both a dangerous hurricane and COVID-19 that they’ve already reached out to the federal government and asked them to help by creating guidelines for evacuations and storm shelters.
This isn’t the year to go back and forth about whether you should evacuate. There’s no guarantee that there will be enough resources on hand to assist if you make the wrong choice and get stuck at home needing help. It is far better to leave town early than to be stranded and in need of shelter or medical care. Leaving early not only means you will reach a safe place, but it also decreases the odds of you encountering the virus at gas stations or grocery stores as you travel. This hurricane season, make it your goal to be ahead of the rush rather than one of the last daredevils to leave town.
Make sure your vehicle is ready to roll
Getting let down by your vehicle in the middle of hurricane evacuation is terrifying but usually, something that can be dealt with. This year will probably be the exception. Don’t wait to hear if a hurricane is bearing down on the Gulf Coast before you fill up your gas tank and change your oil. Do that now. Keep the gas tank filled, make sure that the tires are in good shape, and have your mechanic look at any strange rattles or clunks.
In addition to keeping your vehicle ready-to-go, make sure it’s packed with provisions. It wouldn’t hurt to start packing up your go-bags now and then keep them stored in your vehicle.
Create plans for loved ones who can’t evacuate
Whether you have a loved one who is part of an emergency crew and won’t be able to leave, or if a loved one is in a nursing home or hospital, use this relatively calm period to discuss what steps are needed to keep everyone safe from both the hurricane and COVID-19. In the case of someone in a hospital/nursing home, talk to the director and find out how they plan on handling the double whammy. Ask if there is anything you can do to help them prep or evacuate. If a family member is staying behind, start working on finding a safe place where they can shelter close to their workplace while also maintaining a safe social distance from everyone else.
Start creating an evacuation plan now
Planning is the key to survival. Sit down now and consider where you’ll go if you have to evacuate. If you’re heading north to stay with relatives, start creating a plan that allows you to use their home but that doesn’t put anyone in direct contact with one another. Remember, you could be bringing the COVID-19 virus to their doorstep and they may be asymptomatic and unwittingly exposing you.
With some pre-planning and common sense, all of us should make it through this unique situation that pairs hurricanes with a pandemic.
If you feel that your insurance company isn’t treating you fairly following a hurricane, we can help. Contact us as soon as possible for a free consultation. We’ll look at the details of your case and offer sound advice about your current and future legal options.