Texans got the first taste of hurricane season this year when Hurricane Hanna made landfall on Saturday. It first hit Padre Island. The hurricane touched land as a Category One storm, but is picking up speed and could soon be upgraded to Category 2. In line with recent years, 2020 is likely to be a heavy hurricane season. Response efforts will be all the more challenging thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
Texas is gearing up to face the year’s first hurricane, and leaders assure that the worsening coronavirus situation in the Lone Star State won’t hinder their efforts.
Texas governor Greg Abbott said that state-level government “will coordinate with local officials to provide assistance and resources to communities in the area,” as well as insisting that citizens “heed the warnings and guidance from local officials.”
The mayor of Corpus Christi said on Friday,
“Don’t feel like since we’ve been fighting COVID for five months, that we’re out of energy or we’re out of gas. We’re not. We can do these two things together and we’re going to win both of them.”
The storm is already leaving thousands of south Texas residents without power, and is expected to dump up to a foot and a half of rain on parts of south Texas over the weekend. The projected storm path passes between Corpus Christie and Matamoros, losing most of its strength by the time it reaches Monterrey.
Busy Season Ahead
All signs point to an intense season for hurricanes. Unusually warm waters across the Atlantic Ocean will provide fuel for these monster storms, and the proof is already here. Hurricane Hanna may be a relatively weak hurricane, but it’s a record-breaking storm nonetheless.
July is very early on in the hurricane season. However, Hanna is the 8th named tropical storm of the season so far, smashing a record for the earliest 8th storm of the year. The previous record holder for earliest 8th storm formed in early August.
While that distinction may seem minor, it’s an omen of a busy season ahead. The frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms is already much higher this year, and there are no indications that this trend will reverse. Each storm carries the potential to become a powerful hurricane, and a higher number of storms coupled with warm waters bring that potential way up.
Coronavirus: Double Disaster Preparation
2020 has been, to understate, a challenging year for the country and the world, and an onslaught of tropical storms seems, though very unwelcome, oddly appropriate. The coronavirus pandemic greatly complicates the challenges of a natural disaster, as seen in India some weeks ago.
Storm response involves a number of activities that can magnify the spread of the virus and also make emergency response more challenging. Storm shelters, such as converted stadiums, are basically impossible to practice social distancing in. Additionally, hospitals will be difficult to access in many areas, and critical response teams will have to juggle the challenges of both disasters.
Texas has indicated a readiness to tackle both problems at once. The rest of country, especially vulnerable states like Florida and Louisiana, should follow suit, and make sure they’re ready for this difficult year’s next test.