By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Regardless of what happens in the coming days, right now, this is a good reminder that we all need to be prepared for hurricane season. But we can’t deny that things are different because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s the first time this hurricane season that there has been a possible threat to South Florida. That was enough to prompt some people to join a line for storm supplies at a Walmart in Doral.

They waited with memories of what storms like Hurricane Irma can do with its strong winds.

“We know with the season because it’s full of hurricanes and storms,” said Carol Gardoncini.

Gardoncini and Juan Guzman stocked up on Wednesday.

“Trying to get batteries, flashlights, water,” said Guzman.

But most are not worried.

“Do you have any concerns?” CBS4’s Peter D’Oench asked Manuel Jacquez.

“No, really. I think it’s going to a normal storm to deal with,” said Jacquez, who wasn’t shopping for supplies.

Right now, Miami-Dade does not plan to open shelters as we saw during Irma.

“We don’t generally open for tropical storms,” Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management, told D’Oench.

But in case there is a need, the county is prepared to open 20 shelters – up from 10 – to allow for fewer people at each shelter and more social distancing.

Still, there is a concern.

“We are fearful the people won’t come. That they won’t come to the shelter and they won’t leave their homes because we have been telling them for months, that it safer at home,” said Rollason.

In Broward, Administrator Bertha Henry said the county is also prepared to open up more shelters.

“We want to have more people, not fewer people, in our shelters,“ she said.

And other measures will be taken.

“We’re actually planning to step up the cleaning of facilities,” said Henry. “We’re not going to have people lining up for food. We have boxes of food.”

Broward EOC Director Tracy Jackson told CBS4, “We are prepared to open up all the shelters all the time. That has not changed. What would be impacted if the shelters are open is a redirection of occupant load and a redirection of the way we do social distancing so we can properly follow CDC guidelines during this pandemic and the other thing we would implement is screening protocols for everyone entering including workers. We need to make sure we follow all the precautions.”

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said social distancing strategies are in place for shelters.

“It is absolutely essential that the community begin preparations and their plans,” he said. “This COVID-19 virus is going to impact not only our ability but your ability to how we traditionally respond to hurricanes that may come in to South Florida.

“I know that these challenges are real. It’s important that the community take on their own social responsibility and make sure they have done hurricane preparations and their kits are ready to go and also start to examine what other options they might have to be out of South Florida so they can push inland or even out of the state in advance.”

With an above average number of storms forecast for this season, many here realize this may not be their last shopping spree for supplies this year.

Peter D'Oench

Comments