Hurricane season in Virginia and Maryland can be bad enough in a typical year. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, the challenges are compounded.
Americans in the Mid-Atlantic region are bracing for the double threat. As building and foundation repair professionals, our team at JES wanted to know the top issues homeowners are facing. We asked more than 1,000 homeowners in hurricane-prone states about their biggest concerns. The results reveal how homeowners are approaching the competing threats of COVID-19 and a potential natural disaster.
What Are Your Main Concerns About Hurricane Season During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
- Hurricane damage: 40%
- Power loss: 28%
- Shelters with lots of people: 21%
- Injuries that require hospitalization: 11%
What Happens When a Hurricane Hits During COVID-19?
Hurricanes can inflict excessive damage. In Virginia Beach, many people remember the devastation after Hurricane Isabel hit in 2003. There were 10 inches of rain, 107 mph gusts, 20-foot high waves, and reports of tornadoes. The damage in Virginia totaled $1.85 billion.
Natural disasters aren’t deterred by a health crisis. However, these storms can result in the spread of COVID-19. This is due to increased travel if there is an evacuation, more gathering in groups, and community members working together during recovery.
In a model from Colombia University, researchers found that a Category 3 hurricane could lead to about 61,000 new coronavirus infections.
Forty Percent Are Most Concerned About Hurricane Damage During COVID-19
While the amount of hurricane damage won’t change because of COVID-19, the hurricane recovery efforts will.
For example, many authorities predict delays in emergency response capacity as personnel and infrastructure are already under strain because of the pandemic. FEMA also expects there will be fewer volunteers from the American Red Cross since volunteers commonly include retired people who could be at a higher risk if they contract COVID-19.
Homeowners who have significant property damage from a hurricane could also face financial challenges. Even with excellent insurance coverage, there are costs for deductibles, uncovered damages, replacing personal belongings, and temporary housing during the recovery.
With job markets already in a tumultuous state, additional costs from hurricane damage could put many people in difficult financial circumstances after a hurricane damages their home.
Twenty-eight Percent Are Most Concerned About Power Loss During COVID-19
Hurricanes commonly knock out power grids. However, during COVID-19, this issue could be worsened because power restoration is expected to take longer than usual.
In a typical year, power companies create a centralized command that deploys thousands of personnel to restore power after a hurricane. However, this year, power companies will deploy workers to smaller groups that are scattered throughout a region, rather than in a centralized cluster. This will improve worker safety during COVID-19, but the new operational strategy could mean slower restoration speeds.
A key issue with slower power restoration is that a homeowner’s ability to begin recovery would also slow down.
For example, flooding can be one of the most expensive types of home damage. Speed is crucial to recovery, and the longer that water remains in a home, the more damage and expenses the homeowner will incur. Mold can start to grow within one to two days. Wet structural supports could weaken, and porous surfaces like drywall will begin soaking up water carrying the damage further up into the structure.
The exception to this risk is homeowners who previously had installed a sump pump and battery backup. Even before power is restored, these homeowners will be able to safely pump water out of their basements or crawl spaces. With the ability to start cleanup before power is restored, these homeowners could reduce their total damage. The tremendous value of a sump pump to hurricane recovery makes it a key part of any flood prevention checklist.
Twenty-one Percent Are Most Concerned About Crowded Hurricane Shelters
A hurricane shelter is commonly a safe haven from the threat of the storm. However, during COVID-19, crowded hurricane shelters create a risk for viral spread within the community.
Some households may seek out alternate evacuation locations such as staying with family or renting lodgings.
Administrators of Virginia Beach’s hurricane shelters have been transparent about the potential health risks of local hurricane shelters, saying: “Social distancing guidelines will be enforced to the greatest extent possible, but the shelter is not private. Be prepared to live in close quarters with other evacuees for several days.”
Eleven Percent Are Most Concerned about Hurricane-related Injuries During COVID-19
Concerns about health care are widespread around the globe during the coronavirus crisis. The potential for hurricane-related injuries compounds health care worries.
When seeking treatment, there may be additional precautions such as screenings, masks, or visitor limitations. To prepare for minor injuries, a first aid kit can be especially helpful. The updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that hurricane kits now include COVID-19 related products such as disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer.
How prepared are you for a hurricane? A free inspection from the region’s experts in foundation repair and waterproofing at JES Foundation Repair can help you protect your home from storm damage.