MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Emergency leaders face the added challenge of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic as they prepare for the peak of an already record-breaking hurricane season.
Tropical Storm Isaias made history as the earliest “I” named storm.
In preparation for the peak of hurricane season, the American Red Cross of Eastern South Carolina already deployed trailers filled with supplies across our area; a month earlier than normal because of the pandemic.
“We’ve pre-positioned our trailers with cots, with generators, Clorox wipes, and Purell and water to make sure that we’re ready for when disaster does strike,” Amy Brauner, executive director of the American Red Cross of Eastern South Carolina said.
Brauner says, to adhere to CDC social distancing guidelines, more shelters will have to be activated in the event of an evacuation.
“During Hurricane Florence, at one of our high schools, we helped over 650 individuals, this year our capacity will not go beyond 250 per shelter, so that means we’re going to be opening two to three times more,” she explained.
Brauner says adding more shelters means, the Red Cross needs to add more volunteers.
You can read more about the guidelines and new safety measures in hurricane shelters here.
At the Horry County Emergency Operations Center, spokesman Thomas Bell says, they plan to limit capacity to help ensure no one is exposed to the virus and therefore would need to quarantine.
“Normally when we activate for a tropical system, you’ll see upwards of 80 individuals come to the emergency operation center at any given time,” Bell explained. “This year it’s really going to be scaled down to core individuals and functions so that we can limit the exposure of COVID-19 in that work space.”
Bell says this is also the time to reconsider your evacuation plan and come up with a backup.
“Maybe for the past few storms you’ve gone and evacuated to your grandparents who live out in Augusta, Georgia or something like that; knowing how COVID-19 impacts the elderly, that might not be the best option,” Bell said.
He added, the Horry County Emergency Management Division wants people to prepare for the storm season now and pay attention to forecasts from the National Hurricane Center.
Bell also said, there are a few things to add to your hurricane preparedness kit.
“Think about masks, extra gloves if you can get them, and of course some disinfectant wipes, maybe some sprays depending on where you’re going,” he said. “Also hand sanitizers are great, but also bring a bottle of hand soap.”
The 2020 Hurricane Season is also the second in which the South Carolina Emergency Management Division plans to enact the State Transportation Plan.
After wind load capacity studies were done on the Emergency Operations Center and temporary shelters, state emergency leaders decided, if a storm is foretasted as a tropical storm or category one hurricane, people can remain in the shelters. However, if a storm is predicted to be stronger, those needing shelter would be taken outside the county.