The 2020 Hurricane Season is off to a roaring start, and the country's top hurricane predictors at Colorado State University are forecasting an above-average hurricane season.
Sixteen named storms are predicted, four of which are expected to reach major hurricane strength (Category 3,4,5). In a typical season, 12 named storms and three major hurricanes churn in the Atlantic basin.
And all this during COVID-19. Despite the coronavirus, Lee Health top brass and local emergency management officials urge our community to remain vigilant as we prepare for the season.
“While we hope to have a quiet hurricane season, we cannot predict what this year’s season will bring,” says Lee Health President & CEO Larry Antonucci, M.D., MBA. “As always, safety for our patients and our community members is our main concern in any year, but especially during the pandemic. We must continue to be prepared to care for our community before, during, and after any storm.”
Lee Health has updated the plans and logistics of its typical hurricane response plan to reflect the added challenges of COVID-19.
For example, the new COVID-19 Hurricane Response Plan limits the number of people granted access to Lee Health hospitals to reduce the risk of viral transmission within its facilities, and to ensure patient and staff safety.
Lee Mayfield, Lee County’s director of public safety and emergency management, recommends that if you live in a well-built home that is located inland and away from any flood zones, to shelter in place depending on the severity of the storm.
If you are forced from your home, try to stay at a friend’s house or at an inland hotel or motel that’s also out of the storm surge area, he suggests.
"We really want to double-down on the message this year that if you're farther inland, and if you're not in an evacuation zone and you live in a newer, well-built home, then we'd like you to consider staying at home and sheltering in your home,” Mayfield told CJ Haddad of the Breeze Newspapers. "Our hurricane shelters should be that option of last resort," he said, citing the need to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections.
Here are some important things to consider as you prepare for the hurricane season:
Meanwhile, emergency management officials with Lee, Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, and Hendry counties continue to refine hurricane emergency plans that include social distancing measures to protect residents while preventing the spread of the coronavirus in crowded evacuation shelters.
Determining whether you or your loved ones need access to a special needs shelter is one of the most important things to do to prepare for hurricane season. Lee Health hospitals and facilities are not hurricane shelters.
If you or your loved one requires assistance that exceeds services provided at a general population shelter, you must preregister with Lee County Emergency Management.
Visit www.leegov.com/publicsafety/emergencymanagement for more information on special needs shelters, as well as the locations of public shelters.