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Advice: Take pandemic into account when preparing for hurricanes

Hurricane Dorian over the Atlantic Ocean makes landfall

Hurricane Dorian over the Atlantic Ocean makes landfall on North Carolina's Outer Banks on Sept. 6, 2019. Credit: NOAA

Emergency management officials are warning the COVID-19 pandemic could collide with another disaster this year — a hurricane.

American Red Cross representatives and Long Island officials on Monday stressed the need to adjust hurricane planning amid the virus’ presence.

Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30 and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting a 60% chance of above-normal hurricane activity this year. The agency projects there will be three to six major hurricanes while an average hurricane season produces three.

“We’re entering this hurricane season with a new reality,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at a news conference Monday in Mineola. “When I heard it was supposed to be an above-average hurricane season, the plague of locusts jokes just write themselves.”

Long Islanders should be cognizant of COVID-19 guidelines during hurricane preparation and add cleaning wipes, masks and hand sanitizers to emergency kits, officials said.

“Because of COVID-19, getting prepared will look a little different than in other years,” said Neela Lockel, chief executive of American Red Cross Long Island. “With that thinking in mind, we are urging residents to adjust their preparedness planning to the new health threats brought on by the pandemic.”

The Red Cross suggests arranging in advance to stay with friends or relatives outside the area if a disaster strikes. But if the hosts have coronavirus symptoms or people at higher risk in their home, the organization suggests making other arrangements.

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The organization recommends stockpiling enough supplies to last for two weeks of sheltering at home. It also recommends packing a three-day evacuation kit containing food, water, personal hygiene items, infant needs, pet food and water, cash or traveler’s checks, family documents and a one-month supply of prescription medication.

As most Long Islanders know following the coronavirus outbreak, supplies could be harder to come by in a disaster so the American Red Cross recommends compiling kits now.

The American Red Cross has also amended its shelter protocol, allowing for social distancing and performing temperature checks should it need to set up a mass shelter. Lockel noted the organization has successfully opened shelters for natural disasters in other parts of the country during the pandemic, including after a May dam failure in central Michigan that displaced 10,000 people.

“We anticipate being able to set up what we need to set up here in a way that will keep people safe,” Lockel said.

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