Preparing for a worst-case hurricane scenario
An Imperfect Storm
BY WBM STAFF
AS Tropical Storm Arthur is entered into the history books
as a 2020 pre-season storm, what if a major
hurricane did strike and COVID-19 is still in play?
Evacuation orders could be issued as many
residents are still coping with stay-at-home, some businesses
and the schools closed, all the while edicts not to congregate in
large numbers or other restrictions still in place.
Admittedly it is a nightmare scenario, but it is important to be
prepared, we already had one offshore tropical storm behind us.
“Disasters won’t stop, even during a pandemic,” says Barry
Porter, CEO of the American Red Cross Eastern North Carolina
Region. “Make your preparations now, thinking
about the coronavirus situation as you do.”
Hurricane season officially begins June 1
and continues through the end of November.
Tropical forecast meteorologists at Colorado
State University, typically among the most
accurate in the nation, predict an above
average season with 16 named storms in
the Atlantic. The researchers expect eight to
become hurricanes, of which four will reach
major status, Category 3 or higher (winds of
at least 111 mph).
In 2018, Hurricane Florence came ashore at Wrightsville
Beach and caused record flooding and 42 deaths in North
Carolina. Hurricane Dorian, the most destructive storm of 2019,
spared North Carolina major damage as it remained offshore
after devastating the Bahamas with 180 mph winds.
“This is a unique hurricane season,” says Anna McRay, assistant
director of New Hanover County Emergency Management. “It
will take holistic and flexible planning so we are ready.”
For those who might be forced to evacuate to a hotel in the
coronavirus scenario, she says masks, social distancing and
avoiding crowds should be a key part of the plans. Avoiding
crowded hotel lobbies and staying in your room as much as
possible to avoid contact with others is advised. Other precau-tions,
including staying six feet from others and frequent hand-washing,
Plans for emergency shelters have been changed to reflect
the new reality, McRay says. Shelters in the
past have planned for 20 square feet per
occupant. The new guideline is 36 square feet.
The guidelines would mean fewer occupants,
but if needed there would be more shelters.
In light of the coronavirus, the Red Cross
advises adjusting any previous hurricane plans.
Evacuees staying with friends or relatives
should check if they have symptoms of
COVID-19 or have people in their home at
higher risk for serious illness. If so, make other
arrangements. Check with hotels, motels and
campgrounds to see if they are open along evacuation routes.
McRay suggests the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention website (www.cdc.gov) for planning for coronavirus
protection, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s
website (www.fema.gov) for more on hurricane preparedness.
Do not overlook:
Cash or traveler’s checks.
Have important family documents such as insurance
policies, identification and bank account records saved
or in a waterproof, portable container.
One-month supply of prescription medication.
Family pets. If it is not safe for people to stay home,
it is not safe for pets either. Keep a list of pet-friendly
hotels/motels and animal shelters and take pet food
and extra water.
The Red Cross advises hurricane kits should also now include:
Personal hygiene items.
Cleaning and disinfectant supplies (tissues, hand sanitizer with
60 percent alcohol, and disinfecting wipes).
Cloth face coverings for everyone in your household who can
wear one safely. Cloth face coverings should not be placed
on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble
breathing, or is unable to remove it without help.
Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing.
WBM june 2020