The pandemic has complicated nearly everything in Florida, and that includes preparing for hurricanes.
"The combination of an ongoing pandemic and what NOAA has forecast to be a busy hurricane season is a cataclysmic scenario," reported the disaster policy group SmarterSafer Coalition in USA TODAY. With Hurricane Cristobal moving into the Gulf of Mexico, the third named storm, this is a record hurricane season.
"No other year on record has seen three named Atlantic storms so early," reported the Science Alert website. In fact, the third named storm usually appears in August.
With a more active hurricane season predicted this year, we can only hope that they will miss Florida. Hurricane season officially lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30, though the first named storm already showed up in May.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts 13 to 19 named storms with six to 10 of them reaching hurricane force. Three to six of those storms will become major hurricanes ranked from Category 3 to Category 5.
Hurricanes feed on warmer air and water. And 2019 was the second hottest year on record. Thus with warmer oceans, hurricanes have become stronger and wetter.
There even is talk of adding a Category 6 for hurricanes that reflects not only wind speed but excessive rain and flooding.
If the predictions come true, this will be the fifth straight year of a more active hurricane year than average. This has been happening in recent year with extreme weather events – past is not predictive. But even if Jacksonville is spared a direct hit, tropical storms can cause great disruption with power knocked out and trees knocked down.
That is why it's even more important to prepare this year. As far as hurricane preparation, one change involves hotel rooms. Hotels may be needed to as shelters because the usual shelters must cope with physical distancing requirements.
According to a AAA survey, nearly one-third of Floridians (31 percent) are more concerned about this hurricane season. And 42 percent say they are less likely to evacuate this year for fear of the coronavirus.
Evacuations will be more complicated.
AAA suggests having several evacuation options. Take an inventory at your home. Stock emergency supplies. Identify a safe room. Prepare for pets.
Recent hurricanes have revealed that flooding is the No. 1 disaster in the United States. Yet, two-thirds of Floridians do not have flood insurance, which is separate from homeowners insurance.
If your home is not in an official flood zone, the premiums for flood insurance usually are reasonable and a good hedge against disasters.
In fact, 20 percent of annual flood claims come from homes that are not in flood zones.
"We can mitigate the effects of COVID-19. We can't mitigate the effects of a hurricane," said Jared Moskowitz, Florida director of emergency management.
Regarding nursing homes, Florida has required them to install emergency generators after Hurricane Irma knocked out power in 2017.
Meanwhile, stockpiling for the pandemic may give residents a head start for hurricane season.
"The United States is unprepared to face multiple crises on top of the global pandemic," wrote Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.
We saw what happen when dams failed in Michigan, causing flooding amid the pandemic.
"Even without a pandemic, public health departments and hospital disaster preparedness programs across the United States have been chronically underfunded for more than a decade," Redlener wrote.
FEMA already is stretched thin by helping with the pandemic.
Emergency response teams already are at a breaking point.
This means that family preparations for this hurricane season are more vital than ever.