Preparing for Hurricane Season During a Pandemic

What must change?

emergency kitLong-time Virginia Beach residents are seasoned veterans when it comes to hurricanes. When we learn a storm is in the forecast, everyone heads to the store, stocks up on essentials, prepares sandbags, gases up cars and generators, brings in the patio furniture and either evacuates or hunkers down.

But, the COVID-19 pandemic changes things and, as we have adapted other usual activities, we’re going to have to adapt our hurricane preparations, too. 

“We want people to pull out their kits, check the current contents and then start updating and replacing necessary items right now,” says Virginia Beach Emergency Management Director Erin Sutton. “Even though hurricane season doesn’t technically start until June 1, we already had the first named storm of the season earlier this week – Tropical Storm Arthur – and we’re anticipating 2020 will be an active year for storms. While we are planning how to make sure shelters are as safe as possible and offer proper social distancing, our residents also need to do their part and think ahead.” The City is looking at opening more schools for sheltering so there are fewer people in each building and exploring ways to potentially screen residents seeking shelter to help reduce the chance of exposure.

Start building your kit early and be sure to add COVID essentials. In addition to the usual supplies – food and water, flashlights, batteries, medications, etc., consider that toilet paper, disinfecting wipes and paper towels haven’t been easy to come by and we’ve been having interruptions in the food chain. You’ll also need to add items that you may not have included in your kit in the past:
  • Masks
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfecting wipes and/or spray
As many residents are well aware, getting your hands on these items can be difficult. Start gathering them now so that you’ll have time to locate them before a storm hits. 

Planning ahead for potential evacuations is also key. 

Look up your evacuation zone now and modify your plan as necessary,” advises Sutton. “If you live in zone A or zone B and typically evacuate to your parent’s house in zone D, that might not be an option this year if your parents are vulnerable and practicing social distancing. Make sure you have a plan to shelter with healthy family and friends. Or, perhaps you typically evacuate to a particular hotel in Roanoke. Is that hotel still open? Are the gas stations and restaurants you go to when you evacuate still open? Better to find out now as opposed to getting on the road only to arrive and find them closed.”

The message this year is the same as it is every hurricane season: make an emergency kit, have a plan and stay informed. However, this year, more than ever, getting an early start could be the key difference to weathering a storm.  

To help you stay informed in the event of a local hurricane, the City will set up an emergency website that will be accessible from the City’s homepage – Updates will also be posted to City social media channels. Follow Virginia Beach City Government on Facebook and @CityofVaBeach on Twitter for the latest.

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