Hurricanes, Cyclones, Other Disasters, and CoV

Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina, August 28, 2005

Those who have experienced hurricanes know just how deadly they can be during normal times. The hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin officially begins on June 1, but I thought it important to get people thinking in advance and making plans . It will be considerably more challenging this year as this has to be done while also being concerned about social distancing and possible travel restriction due to the coronavirus while it continues its spread throughout the world.

I am no expert in hurricane preparation because my involvement with them is during a response generally after they hit. However, I was pleased to see that at least the Ready Campaign by the US government has at least added a link to their hurricane page related to COVID-19. I also would like to recommend another great source of planning for all hazards while on this topic.

Those who are in areas that are under threats of these kinds of storms should be planning ahead because of the challenges that lie ahead this year if a hurricane hits.

First, I would argue that it would be wise to consider how evacuation will occur. When doing emergency planning, it’s always best to plan for the worst and hope for the best. It is possible that there might be restrictions on travel to other states. I have been hearing anecdotally of discussions being taken in some areas around the US related to various rules about what businesses can be open and which cannot simply based on which side of a state line the business is on. Obviously during an emergency, travel restrictions would be altered, but that may impact those who decide to leave before an official evacuation order.

Another important consideration with travel will be doing so safely. Think about how gas pumps may be contaminated by the person that used it before you. I keep some cheap sandwich bags in my glove compartment to use as a barrier between the gas pump and myself.

Also consider indoor restrooms. I would be a bit reluctant to use one in a restaurant, gas station, or public rest area, both because of the volume of people that would pass through, but also because of the possibility of virus remaining in the air if someone had just been there who was sick who may or may not be symptomatic. While most people don’t like them, I think that it would be worth considering finding portable toilets at a local park. They usually have hand sanitizer in them but also likely have had a lot less people going through them. Of course, there are no guarantees though about who may have last used either type of facility and how long ago they had been there.

It would also be worth thinking through an evacuation destination. I would be reluctant to be in a hotel with a bunch of others who have evacuated. That simply seems risky. It might be worth finding a friend or family member who would be able to take you and your family in. However, to keep them safe, it would be best to do self quarantine in their home as well, which could be very tricky to do. There are no simple answers and it is part of the reason I’m suggesting thinking ahead.

What seems to be the worst case scenario though from a disease spread standpoint would be to wind up in a public shelter. Outbreaks have been associated with hurricane shelters, including medical shelters where the medical team was impacted. This would be the last place I would want to be while COVID-19 is an issue, but if there is no other options, it’s safer than being exposed to a storm. That’s why I’m suggesting that people who live in areas that have tornadoes, hurricanes, major tropical storm risks, or tropical cyclones start their planning now.

However, it’s important to close with this. “Weather experts, health officials and emergency management agencies who have so far weighed in on the topic recommend that those who don’t have a safe place in their houses or who live in a vulnerable structure, like a mobile home, seek shelter regardless of coronavirus.”

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