Had anybody asked as recently as March 1 whether the 2020 hurricane season would be far more complex and fraught with uncertainty than any of those in the past, we’d have said no.
And we’d have been wrong.
Everybody who has lived along the Texas Coast for a few years, knows the drill, or did until COVID-19 put a new and unexpected twist on that old concern.
Like every year, the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season is June 1. Most of know that it’s time to begin planning what we’ll do if a big storm heads this way.
This year, though, we’ve got to ask new questions. How, for example, can several hundred thousand people evacuate inland during a time of social distancing?
Where are all those people supposed to go if jamming them together on cots in emergency shelters is not an option?
Will it be safe even to put two or three families in a single-family home somewhere inland?
How do you get hundreds of aged and infirm people who can’t evacuate themselves out of harm’s way without packing them onto buses, as has been the method?
The good news is that emergency management officials at all levels of government have been asking those same questions and have plans about how to conduct a mass evacuation during a virus pandemic.
We’ve tried to provide an overview of those here.
A lot of uncertainty remains, however. The season starts now, for practical purposes, but probably won’t really get roiling until late July or earlier August. Will the COVID-19 pandemic be better then, be over, be worse? Who knows?
One thing that has not changed and is certain: The single most important thing you can do is to get your family together and make a plan.
Decide now what you’re going to do.
It’s easier to make decisions when things are relatively calm. When a storm is bearing down on you, it’s a little harder to think clearly. It’s a little harder to remember all those little details of things you’ll need when you hear the evacuation order.
That’s why The Daily News produces this annual Hurricane Guide. We want to provide you with information that you can use to make an informed plan.
Start your plan by making lists of things you want to do and supplies you need. It helps to put things in writing.
Think in terms of needs — what will you need, what will your family need, your pets, your house.
Think about essentials — special medications and food, contact lenses and insurance papers.
What does your car need? Will it hold up to creeping along for hours in heavy traffic and blistering heat? Are the tires good? Is the spare? Is there a spare? A jack? A handle? Do you know how to use them?
If you’re stuck, you could start with some advice that old coastal dwellers used to give to newcomers.
Find a big container or duffel bag. Declare that it’s your disaster kit. As you think of things you’ll need, start stuffing them into your kit.
Seeing your kit every day for a couple of weeks will keep you and other members of your family thinking about what must be done when a storm enters the Gulf.
The point of that big container or duffel bag is that it’s a place to start. And that’s really the point about all this talk about the start of another storm season. It’s a reminder that you need to get started on your plan.
And stay tuned to The Daily News and GalvNews.com. We’ll be reporting the season in depth and detail the whole way.
This is the first, not the last, word on hurricane season 2020.
Michael A. Smith is the editor of The Daily News.