Floridians Worried About How Coronavirus Pandemic Will Impact Hurricane Season

With hurricane season about to start, Floridians are getting concerned about how coronavirus will impact it, a new poll shows.

Get Ready, Florida!, the statewide hurricane safety initiative, released a poll on Thursday looking at what residents of the Sunshine State are thinking as hurricane season begins on Monday.

Jay Neal, the president and CEO of the FAIR Foundation and a partner of Get Ready, Florida!, weighed in on Thursday, noting that the coronavirus pandemic is impacting Floridians as they looked ahead to hurricane season.

“COVID-19 has created a very real, sustained sense of anxiety, and that’s even before the wild card of a major hurricane,” said Neal. “Add hurricane season to the uncertainty of the pandemic and you introduce another set of serious issues to worry about.”

A slight majority of Floridians–51 percent–say they are more concerned about hurricanes this year due to the coronavirus. Almost every Floridian surveyed–91 percent–said they had at least one concern regarding the upcoming hurricane season, including:

  • 62 percent saying they are concerned about more strains on first responders
  • 58 percent saying they are concerned about business closures or more hits to the economy
  • 43 percent saying they are concerned about fewer shelters open due to social distancing
  • 39 percent saying they are concerned about uncertainty about where it would be safe to evacuate to
  • 35 percent saying they are concerned about the ability to care for elderly or special needs relatives
  • 30 percent saying they are concerned about the ability to afford supplies

That uncertainty about where and how to evacuate or find shelter may aggravate an existing problem – the tendency of many Floridians to ignore evacuation recommendations or wait until the last minute. According to the survey, almost half of those surveyed–47 percent–say that they have stayed where they live through a storm despite recommendations to evacuate.

“Social distancing will change the way we shelter people in a hurricane, without a doubt,” said Craig Fugate, the former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “For instance, everyone should add masks to their family hurricane kit. But if you’re told to evacuate, you still need to heed those orders and get out to a safer place.”

The economic strain of COVID-19 may also leave some Floridians less prepared for hurricane season. In addition to the 30 percent who worry about their ability to afford supplies, about 25 percent say they have put off needed home repairs due to COVID-19.

Many Floridians continue to lack essential safety knowledge needed for hurricane season. For instance, when asked where it’s safe to use a generator, 27 percent cite an unsafe spot, including a balcony or garage.

And while almost a quarter of Floridians–23 percent–feel more prepared for hurricane season, possibly because they’ve become accustomed to spending more time at home, experts say it is important that all Floridians stock up on the basics they need to weather a storm.

“It’s important to plan ahead and ensure you have an adequate supply of tap and/or bottled water when hurricanes emerge as a potential threat, said Kent Koptiuch, the natural resource manager for Nestlé Waters North America. “Emergency managers now recommend households have enough food and water for seven days, including one gallon of water per person per day.”

Get Ready, Florida! is an annual statewide public education initiative that has been working to educate Floridians about hurricane preparedness and safety for more than 20 years.

The poll of 1,500 Florida voters was conducted by Sachs Media Group on May 21-22 with a margin of error +/- 2.2 percent.

 

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