Image: A summary infographic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms predicted from NOAA’s 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook.
The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially begins on June 1st, and all those who were hoping to be spared extra worry, inconvenience, and expense will most likely be disappointed. As if the year 2020 is not bad enough already, the hurricane season is likely to add to our troubles. As early predictions roll in, it appears that this year will be worse than average; with 14-18 named tropical storms deemed likely. Of those, seven to nine are expected to become hurricanes, and of those hurricanes, four to five are likely to become major storms. The chances that a major hurricane will make landfall in the US is deemed to be 69%- well above the threat level that existed at this time last year. In short, an above-average hurricane season is approaching, during a year when a global pandemic is already making life very difficult.
In the event of a major hurricane, the current pandemic situation will make every step that much harder. Evacuation, sheltering with others in close quarters, rescue operations, hospitalization for injuries, obtaining food, water and clothing, and the fact that so many families are already on the brink of financial ruin- all these factors will greatly complicate the response to a major natural disaster. In addition to these issues, it may be that funding from FEMA, or assistance from the National Guard, the military, or the Army Corps of Engineers will be complicated by the fact that these resources are already stretched to the breaking point in response to pandemic issues. No year is a ‘good’ year to suffer through a hurricane, but the year 2020 has sapped resources and funding like no other in the past century.
Because of the current pandemic and other unique challenges that will continue to impact our lives this summer, experts are urging everyone who lives in a potential hurricane zone to work on preparing a plan now, well before the plan is needed. Without preparation, coastal residents are risking disaster more dire than they have ever dreamed possible. Many of the very people who are most susceptible to COVID-19 are also very vulnerable to the hazards presented by a hurricane: nursing home residents, indigent or homeless persons, and immobile, house-bound individuals are all at extreme risk during any type of natural disaster. And even if these individuals can be safely evacuated, they are then likely to be housed in cramped and crowded quarters- an environment that is conducive to the rapid spread the COVID-19 virus.
Even now, before the official start of the hurricane season; emergency funds, non-profit agencies, and local relief efforts are already stretched to the snapping point. Many millions of people have lost their jobs, businesses, and shelter. State and Federal agencies are already unable to cope with the unprecedented level of need: for emergency housing assistance, food stamps, health care needs, child care options, and many other services that have never before been under this type of severe pressure. Adding a major hurricane disaster response to this already precarious social services safety net may collapse the entire system. For this reason, experts are issuing a stark warning as the 2020 hurricane season approaches: Be Prepared!