He usually talks about the status of the state's supply of PPE -- personal protection equipment. Or how the state is responding to more than one disaster at once -- severe weather, tornadoes, the coronavirus pandemic.
But lately, he and Reeves are emphatic about preparations for hurricane season.
"Why are we talking so much about hurricane preparedness now?" he asked rhetorically on Thursday. Because there have already been two named storms and the season doesn't start until
State officials also are talking about preparedness because preventing the spread of COVID-19 requires social distancing, which may be impossible if people need to stay in storm shelters.
"I cannot emphasize enough that sheltering operations continues to be the biggest challenge, and the biggest point of concern, point of contention, for the emergency management directors in the lower coastal counties," Michel said Thursday.
Shelters are the No. 1 issue.
"The number of shelters that will be required to maintain that will increase," Michel said. "That means an increased workload, manpower and resources available."
Following those guidelines would drastically reduce the number of people in one shelter, but Michel and the Coast emergency managers said the priority will be safety and no one will be turned away.
"It does not mean you won't have access to a shelter," Michel said. "It just means that you may find yourself in a situation in a shelter where social distancing cannot be maintained."
Each of the counties have hurricane shelters that meet
"We'd only be able to house 210 people," Etheridge said.
But if it comes down to sheltering during a strong storm or social distancing, protecting lives from the immediate threat comes first. "Storm surge and the wind will kill," Etheridge said.
All of the counties are exploring secondary shelters, such as schools and community centers. Etheridge said his county has about 15 options identified, but in
Adam said the coastal counties have been talking with MEMA about a plan to send people to shelters in northern counties if needed, but he's not anticipating having to do that.
"First thing we have to do is take care of our citizens," he said. "There's a lot of people that don't have the means to evacuate, and we need to be there for them."
More shelter staff needed
The other new challenge is finding enough volunteers to staff more shelters and perform the additional daily duties of sanitizing and temperature checks.
"That's probably the biggest obstacle we will have," said
"It was expensive and a lot of work, but at least it avoided putting a lot of people together in a shelter," McFarland said. "But obviously in a hurricane that might not be possible."
Every resident in a hurricane shelter will be required to wear a mask and have their temperature taken daily. People are encouraged to bring their own masks, but one will be provided by the county if needed.
The shelter will be cleaned daily, whereas before McFarland said
But if someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 needs to enter a shelter, they won't be turned away. An isolation area will be created.
"You've got to allow people in whether they're sick or not," Etheridge said.
The counties and
"We want to make sure the people that have to go to the shelters feel safe," Adam said. "They could be reluctant to go because of COVID, and that's why we need to make it as safe as possible."
Unfortunately, many current volunteers fall into the high-risk category for COVID-19. McFarland also isn't able to recruit at the usual local club meetings and events.
"The influx of potential volunteers has obviously dropped significantly," he said.
It's never happened before, but if the counties had to open all possible shelters, McFarland said it would take 300 people to staff them.
He's encouraging people to sign up at redcoss.org to volunteer now, and get training before a storm hits.
On the road
Because of the pandemic, officials expect more people on the roads if the Coast falls anywhere in the
"Roads will be more cluttered than we have seen in past years," said Lacy.
The most important thing Coast residents can do now is make a plan, state and local officials said.
Everyone needs to know which evacuation zone their home is in, and maps are available on the county websites. Every area near water is designated as needing to evacuate depending the category of the storm. Some low-lying areas should evacuate in a Category 1 storm.
Here are the coastal maps:
-- Evacuation map for
-- Evacuation map for
-- Evacuation map for
Officials also recommend leaving sooner to avoid getting caught in traffic.
"Look at evacuation routes," Lacy said. And if you've never left for a storm before, "maybe this would be the year you think about evacuating."
He also said to look at options that are not only north but also to the east or west, depending on the storm's track.
The bottom line is be prepared to leave and plan somewhere to go.
"In the three Coast counties, we really don't want people in our shelters," Etheridge said. "We want people to evacuate and get out of harm's way."
How to plan now for hurricanes during coronavirus
The lower six counties have been working on a pandemic hurricane plan for only a month, and the emergency managers say planning is an ongoing process.
"We all have plans, but the plans are gonna be ever-changing and ever-evolving," Adam said.
Their staffs also have been social distancing, holding Zoom meetings, and will try to avoid packing into Emergency Operations Centers if a storm comes. Several officials also spoke highly of MEMA leader and former
Here are some other things Coast emergency managers say residents can do now to prepare:
-- "Think about 7 to 10 days' worth of supplies," Lacy said, including food and water. "We've already seen rushes on stores on various commodities, and you know there is a potential that we could see that again." Replenish and rotate canned goods.
-- Stock up on hand sanitizer and masks.
-- Have cash on hand.
-- "Right now is the time to worry about your home," Lacy said. "Clear out limbs and branches on these clear, blue-sky days over the weekend. Then you don't have that kind of debris banging up on your home."
-- Make a plan for animals. The counties hope to have a pet-friendly shelter but even in those the animals are kept in caged in a separate area.
-- If you have to go to a shelter, bring your own bedroll, water, snack food, comfort items and folding chairs. "Understand that shelters are not comfortable," Adam said.
"Make sure you're prepared. Get your supplies ready. It looks like this is gonna be a very active season."
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