The U.S. Atlantic hurricane season is arriving in two weeks, and the activity this year is expected to be high.
Eight or more hurricanes produced by warmer than usual ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic can hit the U.S. this summer, reports Newsweek. The southern and eastern coasts will be especially vulnerable to potential disasters, and that bothers experts because the COVID-19 pandemic can make things harder.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other organizations that usually respond to natural disasters will be too overwhelmed if a violent storm strikes. Jeffrey Talley, a retired three-star US Army General, and the VP of the IBM (International Business Machines Corporation) Center explained the situation in his interview with Newsweek.
Talley, who also leads IBM’s global efforts on disaster management, says that an emergency supply chain is already “stressed and strained” because of the COVID-19 outbreak. “There’ll be parts where the COVID-19 risk is going to outweigh the impact of the rest of the hurricane, maybe because you’re pretty far inland and the effects are limited. So they’re going to have to have a series of cascading measures, depending on what the risk is actually calculated to be.”
Potential evacuation methods for this hurricane season will also be altered since they are going to depend on social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines. The second wave of the virus outbreak may still happen between June and November.
Sheldon Yellen, CEO of BELFOR Property Restoration, told Newsweek that it is better to be prepared sooner than later. “In the past, individuals would typically be able to safely gather in large arenas; however, this pandemic has officials rethinking their plans to cohesively manage the spread of the disease while keeping people safe and healthy in storm shelters.”
FEMA issued a statement to Newsweek’s request, saying that it is prepared for the 2020 hurricane season with “robust planning, exercising and lessons-learned components that help us prepare for and respond to disasters.”
“Even as FEMA is focused on responding to COVID-19, we are also preparing and maintaining readiness for other disasters to include spring flooding, severe weather, and the upcoming hurricane season. FEMA currently has over 2,900 employees supporting the COVID-19 pandemic response out of more than 20,500 agency employees who are prepared to respond to other emergencies should they occur,” the statement reads.
For additional support, FEMA will be ready to activate the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Surge Capacity Force.