Extreme Temperature Diary- Tuesday June 2nd, 2019/ Main Topic: A Hurricane Threat From Cristobal During A Pandemic

Tuesday June 2nd… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: A Hurricane Threat From Cristobal During A Pandemic

Dear Diary. As I begin writing this post Tropical Storm Cristobal has formed in the extreme southern portion of the Bay of Campeche. Our best met guidance tells me that this new storm will become strong and may attain hurricane status late this week as it moves northward with time towards Louisiana. This new system will threaten the same areas ravaged by Harvey in 2017 from Houston into Louisiana. At least steering currents will move Cristóbal along such that the thing will not stall, producing ungodly amounts of rain in excess of 40 inches as was the case with Harvey. Am hoping at this point that Cristobal won’t have time to attain a relatively weak CAT 1 status, but warmer than average Gulf waters have me worried. On the plus side Cristobal will interact with Southeast Mexico keeping the system weak the next couple of days.

cone graphic

The bottom line here is that by this weekend residents from Houston eastward into Louisiana will be scrambling to prepare for Cristobal …but unlike with Harvey, which didn’t occur during the middle of a pandemic. To add to this bad situation we have racial strife due to the murder of George Floyd that will remain an open sore well into this summer across the United States.

The folks at Inside Climate News have written an excellent article on this hurricane season interacting with the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve posted about half the article, which I would encourage all to read in its entirety:

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/29052020/hurricane-coronavirus-florida-evacuation-plans

Hurricane Season Collides With Coronavirus, as Communities Plan For Dual Emergencies

In Florida, officials fear widespread confusion when stay-at-home policies conflict with evacuation orders, and they worry about coronavirus spreading in shelters.

By JAMES BRUGGERS, INSIDECLIMATE NEWS AND AMY GREEN, WFME ORLANDO

Jun 1, 2020

Evacuees rest in a makeshift shelter at an elementary school in Florida ahead of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Credit: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

Evacuees rest in a makeshift shelter at an elementary school in Florida ahead of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Credit: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

ORLANDO, Florida—Robin Rokobauer doesn’t like to chance it. When there’s a hurricane, she almost always evacuates.

Rokobauer lives in Cocoa Beach, on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and 153-mile-long Indian River Lagoon. Her mother is 93.

“She’s got to have flushing toilets,” Rokobauer said of her mother.  “She’s got to have fresh water. She’s just got some physical needs that require that.”

But this year Rokobauer is thinking hard about her hurricane plan. She is 65, and like her mother, she’s considered at higher risk of serious complications from the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 100,000 American lives.

“If I have to go any farther or if I have to go somewhere, then you’re going to be exposed to more people in more environments, and you don’t know where those people have been,” she said.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season starts today, and federal scientists expect storms to be more frequent and powerful. Two named storms already formed in the Atlantic this spring before the official start of the season.  As Florida and other coastal states plan for hurricanes, they are confronting troubling new public safety calculations because of the novel coronavirus. 

There’s now a chance for one disaster to layer upon another.  Many lives could be lost: first, from powerful winds, storm surges and flooding, and then through the spread of the coronavirus in cramped public shelters following mass evacuations. Evacuees might pass the virus to friends and relatives who take them in, or get infected themselves in those new surroundings.

“The risks are significant,” said David Abramson, a professor at New York University’s College of Global Public Health, whose research examines the health consequences of hurricanes. “A lot of hurricane events lead to evacuations and displacements” without much time to build in social distancing safeguards, he said.

The hardest problem in planning for a hurricane during a pandemic could be public confusion over whether to evacuate or stay at home, said Craig Fugate, former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Obama.

“What I don’t want to have is people to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. I’m not going to evacuate. I don’t want to get Covid-19, I’ve been told to stay home,'” said Fugate, who also led the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “That may result in more people staying behind and increasing the risk of loss of life.”

Others may stay put just because they are among the tens of millions nationally who have lost their jobs and feel they cannot afford to flee to hotels or family inland. As a result, some emergency managers along the Gulf Coast are trying to line up more shelters for the greater number of evacuees they expect, a move certain to stretch local and state budgets already tattered by the economic downturn.  

Nightmare Scenario: Evacuations in a Pandemic 

Even without a pandemic, mass evacuations can be logistical nightmares, clogging freeways, causing traffic accidents and depleting gas stations of fuel. For each storm, officials weigh the pros and cons of evacuation, and this year, they are adding the pandemic to their concerns, said Bryan Koon, a vice president at IEM, an emergency management and security consulting firm, and Florida’s emergency management director under Gov. Rick Scott.

Authorities in hurricane-prone states are rethinking not only when and where to call for evacuations, but how to execute them. In doing so, Koon said, officials have to contend with the vagaries of weather forecasting.

Meteorologists are getting better at forecasting the path hurricanes take toward land and the deadly storm surges they produce, he said. But there’s enough uncertainty to sometimes prompt officials to “over evacuate” as a precaution, said Koon, whose tenure in state government coincided with Hurricane Irma.

To curb the risk of spreading the coronavirus, officials could be more judicious with evacuations, he said, looking closely at factors like flood and storm surge zones and the age and condition of homes.

“We will have to determine whether it is better to have somebody stay in place because they will be dry enough, or their homes are strong enough, or maybe they are in mobile homes or a storm surge zone and the risks are worse for staying in place so you send them somewhere else,” Koon said.

The DeSantis administration is considering stay-at-home orders where homes are newer and sturdier, especially for weaker hurricanes.

And rather than using buses, community leaders are considering rideshare services like Uber to transport low-income evacuees, one car at a time.

The stakes are especially high this year for low-income people, who would continue facing disproportionate risks from the coronavirus during a hurricane, said Abramson, the NYU professor. People get injured and sick during hurricanes but might lack adequate health insurance, he said.

“The people who are most vulnerable in hurricanes, socially and economically, are also vulnerable medically,” he said. “What we are about to see is also a large increase in the number of people who are uninsured, who are about to lose work-related insurance, and can’t pay for their own,” he added.

Nursing home residents also face unusually high risks this season. Many low-lying facilities have evacuation agreements with facilities on higher ground, but Kristen Knapp of the Florida Health Care Association says this year, nursing homes will have to re-examine these arrangements.

“If you’re a facility that is an evacuation zone and you have positive cases in your building, you may not be able to go to your typical facility that you would go to if they don’t have positive cases in their building,” Knapp said.

Sheltering Collides with Social Distancing 

Sheltering large numbers of hurricane evacuees, which is always complicated by size, location and special circumstances, will be even more difficult amid the pandemic. 

After Hurricane Irma, for example, some 350,000 evacuees were in shelters, often packed into school gymnasiums or other large venues. That wouldn’t make sense this year during a threatening hurricane, officials said.

Leaders are contemplating sheltering evacuees in hotels and motels left vacant by the economic collapse. 

The American Red Cross is already lining up hotels or dormitories, and a higher number of large spaces so evacuees can be spread out. There will be health screening and temperature checks to get into shelters, said Trevor Riggen, a Red Cross senior vice president.

People with temperatures or other virus risk factors will be accomodated in a separate location, with access to medical help, he said.

Food will be served in boxes instead of cafeteria-style, and the Red Cross has already stockpiled face coverings and disinfectants for shelter cleaning, he said.

“We want people to know it will be as safe as possible,” he said.

While the emergency managers are getting ready for the six-month hurricane season, individuals and families need to do their part, this year more than ever, said Jennifer Collins, a geosciences professor at the University of South Florida whose research includes human behavior during hurricane evacuations.

“We definitely can lean on the government to some extent but we have to take personal responsibility as well,” she said. People should make sure they have what they need to shelter in place, for a hurricane and a pandemic, she added.

Robin Rokobauer of Cocoa Beach considered staying put this year. But she believes she will have to evacuate in order to best protect her mother. She feels fortunate that Brevard County has had a relatively small number of coronavirus cases at some 400, including 12 deaths. Already, she is checking with hotels, looking for those with a kitchenette so that she can prepare meals in the room. 

“I hope that we don’t have any” hurricanes, Rokobauer said. “I mean, we’ve been through a lot this year.”

Amy Green covers the environment in Florida for 90.7 WMFE Orlando. James Bruggers covers the Southeast for InsideClimate News. This story was reported and produced as part of InsideClimate News’ National Environmental Reporting Network.

Here is more news concerning Cristobal:

Here is more climate and weather news from Tuesday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

Here are some Midwest records from Tuesday:

Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:

(As usual, the most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”

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