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Hurricane During a Pandemic – Hurricane Hanna

A sailboat washed up during Hurricane Ivan at the Soundside of Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Sept. 16, 2004. (U.S. Air Force by Airman 1st Class Kimberly Gilligan) (RELEASED)

  • A hurricane hits a coronavirus hotspot
  • Benefits and drawbacks of changes in disaster response as a result of the coronavirus
  • More ways people are adjusting to the dual threat
  • What to expect from Hurricane Hanna

A hurricane hits a coronavirus hotspot

Hurricane Hanna hit southeast Texas with heavy rain and winds as strong as 90 mph in late July that became a category 1 storm causing many residents to lose power. As of 1PM on July 27th, American Electric Power Texas, one of the state’s largest power providers, reported 58,000 power outages in southern Texas. Local officials have been scrambling to transition between controlling the coronavirus pandemic and facilitating disaster relief. This disaster is especially difficult for a state like Texas because it has been a coronavirus hotspot with 463,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus along with 7,692 deaths as of August 4th. Although the state is no stranger to hurricanes due to its experience in the past decade with Hurricane Harvey, Ike, and Rita, preparing for the hurricane had been difficult with the social distancing and strict face mask and fever check rules which complicated communication and relief efforts.

Benefits and drawbacks of changes in disaster response as a result of the coronavirus

Governor Greg Abott issued a state of emergency for 32 counties. President Trump and the Federal Management Agency(FEMA) also approved a federal emergency declaration which allowed for federal assistance on reimbursements for evacuation and shelter.

Local officials used the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio as a reception center for those in need of shelter. However with social distancing still in place, the Coliseum merely served as a location for residents to obtain vouchers for hotels nearby. This is yet another way the coronavirus has impacted bureaucratic response to disasters. In another coronavirus hotspot, California, state government officials have stated how quarantine measures have made wildfire response difficult as the golden state prepares for its next wildfire season. Despite these examples, a tornado that hit Jonesboro, Arkansas in March resulted in zero deaths due to businesses being shut down and most people being sheltered at home. This shows that there have also been unexpected benefits from the coronavirus quarantine to states experiencing natural disasters.

More ways people are adjusting to the dual threat

Government officials have advised residents fleeing their homes to bring their masks with them. They have also advised those fleeing to the homes of relatives and friends to practice social distancing and to wear masks indoors. In a public announcement, Mayor of Corpus Christi Joe McComb stated, “We’re riding two high horses right now, so be sure to take care of what keeps you safe through the Covid experience.” Mr. McComb added, “And so staying home doesn’t sound real popular, but right now this is a real important matter” encouraging residents to continue quarantining despite the disaster.

Webb County has often provided people fleeing tropical storms with shelter. In order to adjust to the coronavirus pandemic guidelines, local executives have been taking the temperatures of people coming in and providing them with protective gear. Those who showed symptoms of the coronavirus have been separated from those who are healthy.

What to expect from Hurricane Hanna

Unlike its historically infamous predecessor Hurricane Harvey which destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and killed a 100 people, experts predicted that Hurricane Hanna will be much less destructive. Despite this, The Hurricane Center still expects between a foot and 18 inches of rain. Flash flooding or tornadoes following the hurricane could also be destructive for the state.

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