JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Monday is the official start of the 2020 hurricane season -- and we’ve already had two named tropical systems this year.
New data from AAA shows Floridians are more concerned about this year’s hurricane season as the coronavirus pandemic adds to the unease of what’s expected to be an active year.
The survey found nearly a third of Floridians are more concerned about hurricane season than they were last year.
Two out of five people said they are less likely to evacuate for a storm this year because of fears of contracting the coronavirus.
“Unfortunately you have a lot of people who just don’t want to evacuate. They want to stay home. They feel like they can protect their belongings and you just can’t get them to leave despite official warnings, things like that. And now you add to that concerns about coronavirus,” said Mike Jenkins with AAA.
More than a quarter of residents said they would not leave their homes if they were warned to evacuate.
"It’s a deadly call to make,” said former FEMA Director Craig Fugate.
Fugate said pandemic or no pandemic, people need to heed evacuation orders.
“If you’re in the evacuation zone, move to higher ground,” said Fugate.
The survey also showed eight out of 10 people who would evacuate, would only do so for a Category 2 hurricane or greater.
The messaging from state officials is essentially the same as past years, but they are warning against unnecessary evacuations, like when millions took to the highways to escape Hurricane Irma.
“If your home is a newer home, if your home is safe, stay home. Get ready. Stay off the roads,” said Fugate.
For those who do need to seek shelter, 200 hotels have offered their rooms to evacuees to provide for adequate social distancing.
Shelters are also being told to screen evacuees for COVD-19.
"And taking those steps to identify people who may be at risk, may have been exposed and get them into isolation,” said Fugate.
AAA’s survey numbers show more than half of Floridians do not have an emergency plan already in place. Fugate said now is the time to prepare. Hurricane supplies are tax free through June 4.
Here are a few ways to prepare for this year's hurricane season.
Get flood insurance. AAA says flooding is the No. 1 disaster in the United States and, according to its survey, two-thirds of Floridians don't have flood insurance.
Protect your home. Secure your home by making sure repairs are taken care of sooner than later.
Take inventory of the items in your home with a video camera or smartphone and keep records of large purchases.
Stock up on all emergency supplies. Check out our Build-A-Kit That Fits page for the items you should include.
Fugate also recommends adding gloves, hand sanitizer and masks to your hurricane supply kit this year. Those items, however, are not covered under the tax free holiday.
And identify a safe room in your home where family members should gather in case of an emergency.
In case you need to evacuate, make sure to have a plan that includes how to get in touch with family members with limited cellphone service. Also, know your evacuation route, prepare your vehicle for an immediate emergency, prepare your pets and research shelter availability. This is especially important this year as the coronavirus will change the capacity at several shelters.
“States are looking at the ability to contract with hotels and motels as a form of sheltering, at least for the higher-risk populations, elderly, preexisting conditions or people that were already in isolation because of exposure or because they have COVID-19,” said Craig Fugate, a former administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Experts say the bottom line is, hurricane season is here and now is the time to get ready, especially since the coronavirus pandemic is changing what you’re used to doing and how you prepare.