A busy hurricane season combined with the coronavirus pandemic could be ‘cataclysmic’

Hurricane season coronavirus concerns
Photo via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • The impending hurricane season is anticipated to be particularly busy
  • The U.S. is still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic
  • The combination could put strain on disaster relief, the healthcare system

Hurricane season is officially upon us, sparking concerns over what the combination of COVID-19 and potential natural disasters could mean for the U.S.

The upcoming hurricane season is projected to be particularly busy, according to USA Today. In May, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that 19 named storms could form this season. Of those, they believe as many as 10 could become hurricanes. This active storm season, combined with the continued struggles stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, could result in massive problems later in 2020.

The nation has been struggling to bounce back from devastating hurricanes in the past several years. Fallout from hurricanes like Katrina in 2005 and Harvey in 2017 continued to hamper communities around the nation for months and years afterward. If Penn State researchers’ assumptions are correct, 2020 is set to be one of the most active years on record when it comes to hurricanes. 

While many cities and states are beginning to reopen during the panemic, social distancing measures are still being followed around the country. If hurricanes do hit in force, some people will likely hesitate to gather in shelters and other protected—but crowded—spaces. Concerns over how to ensure the safety of the elderly, in particular, are concerning officials. 

Meanwhile, FEMA is set to provide disaster relief remotely, rather than in-person, as often as possible. A series of updated guidelines have been added to its website, outlining how to protect oneself from both a hurricane threat and COVID-19. Recommendations include bringing cleaning supplies to a shelter, attempting to maintain a six-foot distance even while sheltering, and continuing the use of face masks. Still, those recommendations will likely be difficult to adhere to in the midst of a hurricane.

Disaster management is already under massive strain, after months of working to manage the coronavirus pandemic. Working through another wave of coronavirus cases—anticipated this fall—combined with a fierce storm season and already drained resources will likely weigh down our federal systems in immeasurable ways. Disaster fatigue, yet another factor in our new reality, has also urged people away from the news and social media. This will not only distance them from necessary alerts and notifications but will also make them less likely to take threats seriously. We’ve become so accustomed to the lingering threat of COVID-19, some people may not recognize the very real threat a hurricane presents. 

Without careful preparations, the upcoming hurricane season could spell disaster for our already virus-ravaged nation. Officials are scrambling to alter pre-arranged disaster management plans that have suddenly become untenable due to COVID-19. The economic effects that will surely follow not only another spike in coronavirus cases but also any hurricanes are just another issue for federal and local officials to consider. 

Sources: The Guardian, FEMA, USA Today, Vox

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