Island prepares for Hurricane Harvey

Jose Contreras stocks up on bottled water Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, at the Kroger in Galveston as Hurricane Harvey heads toward the Texas coast.

Preparing for hurricane season during a global pandemic is a new frontier for most of us.

Each year between June 1 through Nov. 30, coastal residents make plans to survive if and when a hurricane comes our way.

Disaster kits should be filled with items such as food and water; personal items such as medications, toilet paper and paper towels; a first aid kit; and important documents like your ID, birth certificate, Social Security card and family photos.

In this new age of COVID-19, however, crisis is different from shortages during/after a hurricane, said Carlos Peña, owner of Kleen Supply Company in Galveston.

As a paper products distributor, Peña argues the paper shortages created by the pandemic were caused more by panic buying and greater demand than interruptions in production and will settle over time, he said.

“I don’t think a shortage of paper products would be a problem during hurricane season, as most are manufactured in the United States,” he said. “Although manufacturers were caught off-guard with the pandemic, they’re operating at record high levels to get the supply back to normal.

“And like paper goods, disinfectants and sanitizers are also in short supply right now, but production has been increased and manufacturers are hoping to catch up soon.”

Fresh grocery items, including meat, vegetables and fruit have been short in supply for different reasons, Peña said.

“That supply chain has been disrupted like a ripple effect with factories and processing plants closing, the transportation of goods was interrupted, and so on until it reaches the consumer,” Peña said. “However, preparing food supplies for a hurricane would mostly include nonperishable items, so I see no problem there.”

Mark Morgan, chief of emergency management for the city of Galveston, isn’t anticipating any shortages of supplies, but wants to keep everyone focused on the upcoming hurricane season.

“Make sure you have an emergency kit stocked with nonperishable food, drinking water, medications, extra masks, items for your pets, batteries and mobile phone chargers,” Morgan said. “It’s important to keep your fuel tanks full and have a current evacuation destination as well.”

In addition to its emergency response team, the city of Texas City’s Office of Emergency Management has created a pandemic response team because of COVID-19 measures, said Tom Munoz, emergency manager.

“Although we’re not anticipating any shortages, the pandemic has changed the way we do business normally,” Munoz said. “Now we have to make sure that we have enough personal protective equipment, so it’s kind of hard to gauge because this is a first for most of us.”

The city, which has 55,000 residents, has 10,000 surgical masks and 110 gallons of hand sanitizer so far to help prepare for hurricane season, Munoz said.

“We’re blessed to be able to be prepared and have people in place who have an understanding on how to keep our residents safe,” Munoz said. “COVID-19 is definitely changing the way we do things.”

The county’s largest city, League City, although cautiously optimistic, is always concerned about making sure it’s putting measures in place ahead of time to take care of its residents, said Ryan Edghill, emergency management coordinator.

“Being prepared in general is always an issue each year, but the concern of COVID-19 issues has added to that preparation,” Edghill said. “We’ve stockpiled on personal protection equipment and disinfectant and have gotten a lot of support from the state, too.

“This season it’s more important now to put those additional sanitation supplies in your hurricane kits. But we’re mitigating these new changes by preparing as much as we can.” 

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

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