Only two weeks into the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, Mother Nature is busy with the second named storm forming off the North Carolina coast and another storm threatening to hit the northern Gulf Coast later this week.
It’s critical for people who live in hurricane prone areas to make their preparedness plans now. The American Red Cross is urging people to get ready after back-to-back years of record-breaking hurricane seasons.
Ana, the first named 2021 storm, formed near Bermuda in late May before the official start of hurricane season. Tropical Storm Bill is now off North Carolina and is predicted to stay away from the coast. A third storm system has a chance of developing into a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico and bring heavy rain to the northern Gulf Coast Friday, an area already dealing with flooding.
NOAA reports this year there could be 13 to 20 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher. Six to ten of these could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, including 3 to 5 major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher. 2020’s hurricane season set records with 30 named storms and billions of dollars in damages.
Last year, extreme weather events created the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters to strike the U.S. in a single year. Compounded by the pandemic, disasters took an enormous toll on families who spent more nights in emergency lodging in 2020 — more than 1.3 million — than any other year over the past decade.
GET READY NOW It only takes one storm to devastate a community. Follow these steps to help make sure your family is ready to either evacuate or hunker down if a storm threatens your neighborhood.
- Create an evacuation plan. Plan what to do in case you are separated from your family during an emergency and if you have to evacuate. If you already have an emergency plan, update it and review with family members so everyone knows what to do if an emergency occurs.
- Build an emergency kit Gather food, water, and medicine. Organize supplies into a Go-Kit and a Stay-at-Home Kit. Go-Kit: 3 days of supplies that you can carry with you. Include backup batteries and chargers for your devices (cell phone, CPAP, wheelchair, etc.) Your Stay-at-Home Kit: 2 weeks of supplies. Stores and pharmacies might be closed. Have a 1-month supply of medications in a child-proof container. Keep personal, financial, and medical records safe. If you already have a disaster kit, now is the time make sure the food and water is still okay to consume and that copies of important documents are up to date.
- Be informed. Find out how local officials will contact you during a disaster and how you will get important information, such as evacuation orders.
- Download the free Red Cross Emergency app to help keep you and your loved ones safe with real-time alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety advice on hurricanes and other emergencies.
RED CROSS GETTING READY As hurricane season begins, the Red Cross is making final preparations to ensure help is available to anyone who needs it after a disaster. These efforts include updating response plans in coordination with local partners, refreshing the stock of relief supplies including cots, blankets and cleaning supplies, and recruiting and training new volunteers.
SAFE SHELTERING Ensuring people have a safe place to stay during a disaster is a critical part of the Red Cross mission, but support of sheltering efforts may be different in each community, depending on local emergency plans and the scale of the disaster.
This year, the priority will be to open safe group shelters in most cases for people evacuating in the face of emergencies — and appropriate precautions will stay in place that help to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, including health screenings, enhanced cleaning procedures and encouraging social distancing.
To ensure the safety of our workforce and those we serve, masks will be required in shelters for both shelter staff and residents, regardless of vaccination status, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shelter guidance.
In some communities, hotels may still be more appropriate if the risk of COVID-19 is particularly high.
KEPT PEOPLE SAFE IN 2020 Last year the Red Cross was able to keep its workforce and the people served safe while responding to record-breaking disasters during COVID-19. Trained disaster workers were diligent in following social distancing protocols, wearing masks, performing health screenings and using enhanced cleaning procedures. Due to these efforts, there was no significant spread of COVID-19 after disasters among the workers or in the shelters.
Visit here to learn more about what you should do to stay safe if a hurricane threatens your community.