VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season is right around the corner. The first day of the season is June 1.
Hampton Roads city leaders said getting ready this year may look a little different thanks to COVID-19. Virginia Beach Emergency Management Director, Erin Sutton, wants to remind people that this is not the year to hold off on planning.
“Make a plan, get a kit, and stay informed. I think the biggest thing is making sure you stay informed because the messages are going to be different," Sutton said.
Coronavirus and hurricane season is a complicated mix. Sutton said so far, city leaders have held several meetings and the planning never stops.
“It’s kind of a cascading effect. We are trying to make sure we are thinking about each of the pieces, but it’s not to say we have the answer for everything,” Sutton explained.
Sutton said one of the biggest challenges is thinking about where people would shelter if a hurricane headed our way. The plan is to open more schools with guidelines that allow people to stay six feet from one another.
“Now we have to look at social distancing, the number of people we put in there, which means we may need to open more shelters,” Sutton explained.
With more shelters, leaders would need to add more staff and volunteers. Sutton said it's time for residents to come up with an idea of where their families would go, whether it be to a shelter or to a relative’s home.
“Make sure you’re thinking about evacuation plans now and you are purchasing the things you need now," Sutton explained.
The coronavirus interrupted the supply chain. Food, toilet paper, and other things may be a challenge to find, but it’s still important people make a hurricane kit, get a plan, and stay informed.
“Folks think about stopping to get gas or snacks or restaurants on the road realizing that some of those places may not be open or have the capacity to support you,” Sutton said.
She notes that city leaders will continue to plan for the unknown, but one thing that's for certain is safety is the number one priority.
She said, “At the end of the day, life safety is much more important than anything.”