WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - From days of rain and storm surge - to tenacious winds and epic flooding - the Carolinas are no stranger to the relentless impacts from hurricanes and tropical storms.
The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season will be unlike any other previous year as a new challenge is introduced: COVID-19
So how do you weather hurricane season and a global pandemic? The time to start preparing is now.
Decide how and where you might go if an evacuation order is issued and have more than one alternative.
The Red Cross will continue to open disaster shelters at the request of emergency management and in coordination with local public health authorities. The goal is to provide anyone in need after a disaster with a safe place to stay where they feel comfortable and welcomed.
James Jarvis with the American Red Cross says shelter capacities will be reduced down to a third of what they normally are this year. There will also be an isolation area for those who would need to be separated from others to keep everyone safe. He encourages everyone to follow guidance of emergency personnel.
The first sheltering preference in a COVID environment is to do non-congregate sheltering, which would mean hotels, motels, or dormitories. The last option would be congregate sheltering.
If congregate shelters would be needed, the preference would be to shelter 50 clients or less for no more than 14 days (to limit their exposure to one another).
Larger shelters, if required, would be intended for seven days or less and would be downsized to a 50-client or fewer shelter(s) as soon as possible, if shelter post-impact is still needed.
The maximum capacity for a larger shelter, if required, would be set by the health department.
To help keep people safe, the Red Cross will work with local officials to put in place additional precautions including:
- Setting up a health screening process for everyone coming into the shelter
- Creating an isolation care area in the shelter
- Providing masks, tissues and plastic bags throughout the shelter
- Following social distancing practices, as much as possible, by staggering meal times and adding extra spacing between cots, chairs, tables, etc.
- Providing additional hand-washing stations, in addition to normal restroom facilities
- Increasing wellness checks to identify potential illness, including self-monitoring and checking temperatures of both shelter residents and staff
- Enhancing both cleaning and disinfecting practices throughout the shelter
Trim up loose and low hanging branches on trees surrounding your home and think about where you will put or secure loose outside items.
While spending time at home, now would be a good time to take photos or video of your important household possessions should you need to later file an insurance claim.
Start gathering essential hurricane supplies like water, nonperishable food, household cleaning items and masks for each family member.
Planning ahead will be especially important this year as COVID-19 could impact evacuation routes, lodging, and what items are available for your hurricane preparedness kit.