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While the coronavirus pandemic is keeping people home and apart, it shouldn’t stop them from preparing for this year’s potentially devastating hurricane season, the American Public Health Association advises
Experts are predicting this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1, will be dangerously above normal. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center has estimated that there will be six to 10 hurricanes this season, three to six of which will be major, with winds of 111 mph or higher. An average season has three major hurricanes.
A number of conditions are contributing to the predicted higher-intensity storms, NOAA said, including warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures caused by climate change. Climate change has worsened the effects of hurricanes that have hit the U.S. in recent years, including 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that caused major damage and loss of life in Houston and surrounding areas.
“Climate change hasn’t gone away with COVID-19 — it’s still here,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD. “Folks could be doubly hit with the force of a major weather storm and a health storm in coming months.”
To help the public stay safe from hurricanes during the pandemic, APHA is sharing special advice:
- Update your emergency go-bag with pandemic supplies, including face coverings, hand sanitizer and soap. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends packing at least two cloth face coverings per person.
- Don’t let COVID-19 stop you from evacuating. If a hurricane is heading your way and officials tell you to leave, don’t hesitate to do so. Have your emergency supplies and essentials packed and ready to go at all times.
- Be sure you will have somewhere safe to go by planning ahead. If you are planning to go to a public disaster shelter, contact local officials now to see if there are new locations or special guidance because of COVID-19. When you reach the shelter, practice physical distancing, use face coverings, avoid touching surfaces and wash your hands regularly, CDC recommends. Don’t share food or drinks with others.
- If you usually stay with friends or family when you evacuate, contact them now and ask how you will be able to safely distance from one another in light of COVID-19. If you have to shelter at a hotel, avoid interacting with others and bring your own supplies to clean surfaces regularly.
- Know your evacuation routes in advance, especially if shelter locations have changed. In case of loss of cellphone signal, print out route maps.
For general information on preparing for hurricanes, visit APHA’s Get Ready website and Ready.gov.
Local officials and emergency managers who are taking steps to prepare for flooding this summer should check out the Dual Disaster Handbook. The free resource, released by APHA and the American Flood Coalition earlier this month, helps decision makers incorporate COVID-19 considerations into their planning.
“Safety is the most important consideration for everyone during a hurricane or storm, and it’s especially crucial now during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Benjamin said.
APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the public health profession. We speak out for public health issues and policies backed by science. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Visit us at www.apha.org.