Hurricane season amid a pandemic — and a possible strain on resources and the economy — is causing Floridians a little more stress this year.
Most Floridians are expressing more concern than usual about the upcoming 2020 hurricane season, which officially starts Monday, given the overlapping COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey from the hurricane safety initiative “Get Ready, Florida!”
Adding to the problem: Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center are predicting a more active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, with a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season and only a 10% chance of a below-normal season. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.
Nearly all of those surveyed said they had at least one significant concern, from an added burden on first responders to the possibility of further business closures, leading to yet another hit to the state’s already struggling economy,
“COVID-19 has created a very real, sustained sense of anxiety, and that’s even before the wild card of a major hurricane,” said Jay Neal, president and CEO of the FAIR Foundation and a “Get Ready, Florida!” partner. “Add hurricane season to the uncertainty of the pandemic and you introduce another set of serious issues to worry about.”
More than half of Floridians polled (51%) feel a heightened concerned about hurricanes this year compared to other years due to their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic over the past few months; the remainder said they feel no different at all.
In addition, more than 9 in 10 (91%) expressed at least one concern regarding the upcoming hurricane season, including:
— More strains on first responders (62%).
— Business closures or more hits to the economy (58%).
— Fewer shelters open due to social distancing (43%).
— Uncertainty about where it would be safe to evacuate to (39%).
— Ability to care for elderly or special needs relatives (35%).
— Ability to afford supplies (30%).
Uncertainty over where and how to evacuate or find shelter could also multiply an already existing problem — the tendency of many Floridians to ignore evacuation recommendations or wait until the last minute.
According to the survey, nearly half (47%) of Floridians report that they have stayed put at home through a storm — despite recommendations to evacuate.
“Social distancing will change the way we shelter people in a hurricane, without a doubt,” said Craig Fugate, former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “For instance, everyone should add masks to their family hurricane kit. But if you’re told to evacuate, you still need to heed those orders and get out to a safer place.”
The economic burden of COVID-19 may also leave some Floridians less prepared for hurricane season. Adding to the 30% who worry about their ability to afford supplies, another 25% say they have put off needed home repairs due to COVID-19.
This becomes a continuing issue, since many Floridians lack essential safety knowledge needed for hurricane season. For example, when asked what areas are safe to use a generator, 27% of respondents cited unsafe spots such as a balcony or garage.
And while nearly a quarter of Floridians (23%) say they are more prepared for hurricane season, one explanation is that they’ve become accustomed to spending more time at home, experts say it is important that all Floridians stock up on the basics in case of a storm.
“It’s important to plan ahead and ensure you have an adequate supply of tap and/or bottled water when hurricanes emerge as a potential threat, said Kent Koptiuch, natural resource manager for Nestlé Waters North America. “Emergency managers now recommend households have enough food and water for seven days, including 1 gallon of water per person per day.”
For more than two decades, “Get Ready, Florida!” — the annual statewide public education initiative — has worked inform Floridians about hurricane preparedness and safety. Sachs Media Group conducted the 2020 survey of 1,500 Florida voters between May 21-22; the results have a +/- 2.2% margin of error with a 95% confidence level.
The full survey results — and more information about hurricane preparedness — are at hurricanesafety.org.