As 2020’s hurricane season braces for its most threatening storm yet, Hurricane Laura, government officials, and natural disaster response organizations are having to reevaluate procedures in light of COVID-19. As winds gather speed and Hurricane Laura prepares to make landfall, regions of Louisiana are recording some of the highest surging infection rates, outpacing even Florida and New York.
Hurricane Laura – estimated to be the most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. this year by far – is expected to hit the Gulf Coast on Wednesday evening on the border of Texas and Louisiana. From there, it is on track to make its way up as far north as Arkansas and valley regions in Ohio and Tennessee.
According to the Associated Press, the storm grew 70% in power in the last 24 hours. Currently, it is rated a Category 4 hurricane, and as of Wednesday afternoon, it had maximum sustained winds of 140 mph. Experts expecting “potentially catastrophic” damage are urging as many as 500,000 residents along the Texas-Louisiana state line to evacuate, but scientists say large-scale evacuations may also cause a surge in coronavirus infections if not handled carefully.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced that there are no plans to open state shelters, reports National Geographic. In a press conference on August 26, Edwards said the state was doing all it could to provide non-congregate sheltering such as hotels and motels but that space was limited. Edwards advised residents who live in Laura’s path to find their own hotel rooms or stay with family out of harm’s way. In Texas, evacuation buses are stocked with protective equipment and disinfectant, but state officials say they are required to carry fewer passengers in order to keep people apart.
Under unprecedented circumstances, we’ve put together a list of resources of how to prepare, how to safely evacuate, and how to stay informed ahead of Hurricane Laura's arrival.
The Red Cross App
The Red Cross lists a number of guides for COVID-19 safe hurricane preparedness that walks you through everything from important documents to keep in your kit to what to pack for emergency supplies to how to shelter safely. The Red Cross also made a free app filled with tools, information, and updates on different natural disasters specific to your area. It sends alerts and will give you advice based on the current conditions. They also have an interactive map that shows where to find shelter should you not be able to obtain a hotel or stay with relatives out of town. Each shelter’s contact information, capacity, and address are included.
Run by Airbnb, Open Homes facilitates people wanting to host those who are in need of short-term, emergency housing. Whether it is an entire house or a room, hosts can offer the space they have for free on a platform where those in need can find it. It is also open to first responders and relief workers who come after to help with clean up.
Direct Relief works with local partners to provide immediate needs to those affected by natural disasters. One way that they do this other than post-disaster relief is to provide prep packs beforehand that are located near vulnerable areas so that facilities in the area have access to medications and medical supplies in the wake of the storm.
Center For Disease Control & Prevention Crowd Guide
If your best option to stay safe is to stay in a shelter, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention put together a guide for how to socially distance and how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. They also have a guide on how to stay safe with children and ways to teach them everyday preventive actions to keep the risk of infection to a minimum.
Operation Blessing focuses on four main areas of need: food, water, medical care, and disaster relief efforts. The organization is donations-based, and through that, they are able to provide shelter supplies, hygiene facilities, medical care, and other services.