What Happens if a Hurricane Hits During the Pandemic?
By Patricia Mazzei June 18, 2020
It’s deep into the summer and a massive hurricane looms off the Florida coast, threatening enormous destruction and widespread power blackouts. In normal times, in such a scenario, the orders would come down for millions of coastal residents: Evacuate.
But in the middle of a pandemic, the most consequential of disaster decisions become complicated by fears of contagion.
Temporarily moving in with a relative might expose older family members to the coronavirus. Friends might be wary of letting in evacuees from outside their quarantine bubble. People who might otherwise book a flight out of town worry about getting infected on a plane. And the more than 1.5 million Floridians who are out of work might be unable to afford gas or a motel room.
What is left are emergency shelters, where hundreds of people crowd into high school gymnasiums, share public bathrooms and line up for buffet-style meals.
This is the planning dilemma now facing emergency managers across the Southeast ahead of June 1, the official start of a hurricane season that meteorologists expect to be quite active. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecast as many as six storms rated Category 3 or higher. A named system, Tropical Storm Arthur, already formed in May.