Two weeks before the official start of the hurricane season on June 1, Tropical Storm Arthur has become the first storm of the year.
The storm formed off the coast of South Florida over the weekend, ushering in heavy rains and a thunderstorm warning for Miami-Dade and Broward County.
According to the U.S National Hurricane Center, the storm is expected to strengthen as it moves northeast towards North Carolina on Monday.
With the start of what could be an active hurricane season just weeks away, the state of Florida is preparing how to respond to any future storms while taking the coronavirus pandemic into account.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference this month that COVID-19 will be around in some form during hurricane season, and the state needs to rethink how to provide shelter for thousands who may need to evacuate if any storms threaten the state.
“This virus really thrives and transmits when you have close sustained contact with people inside an enclosed environment,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Sarasota. “As you’re looking at sheltering for a hurricane, you have to keep that in mind. If you pile people into a place, under normal circumstances that may be fine, but that would potentially allow the virus to really spread if somebody is, in fact, infected.”
Florida emergency management Director Jared Moskowitz said the state is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on changes for 2020 that may include shelters that only accept people infected with the virus or orders for people to shelter in place depending on the strength of the building and the power of the storm.
“We’re going to do more non-congregate sheltering instead of mass congregate sheltering,” he said.