(05/26/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — The 2020 hurricane season could bring new challenges as Louisiana residents also navigate the realities of COVID-19. The U.S. has already seen one named storm, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said coastal areas should brace for an active season.
Preparations should include yards, homes, pets and having food and cleaning supplies, but disinfectants and some food items have been in high demand since the state went on lockdown following outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.
LSU AgCenter food safety expert Wennie Xu said cleaning and disinfecting items such as soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, or general household cleaning and disinfecting supplies for surfaces are important, especially if a storm necessitates cleanup because of floodwaters or storm damage.
Having a three-day water supply is important. “It is best to buy bottled water and prepare for one gallon of water per day per person,” she said.
To keep food safe in the event of a power outage, keep the doors of your refrigerator and freezer shut as much as possible. “Frozen foods can be safely refrozen if they still have ice crystals on them or the temperature is 40 degrees or lower,” Xu said.
She also said to make sure you have a manual can opener, a food thermometer to monitor temperature and bleach if you need to sanitize utensils, pots and water.
Xu also said families should have two cloth face covering per family member.
If an evacuation to a public disaster shelter is necessary, she recommends the following:
— Practice social distancing.
— Wash hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, and follow shelter policies for wearing cloth face coverings.
— Avoid sharing food and drink with anyone if possible.
— Avoid contact with high-touch surfaces as much as possible. If not possible, wash hands or use hand sanitizers containing 60% alcohol immediately after you touch these surfaces.
— If you have high-risk individuals in your household, follow the public shelter’s policies.
— If you have children in your household, model good behavior. “If you wash your hands often and keep safe distance from others, your children are more likely to do the same,” Xu said.
AgCenter nutritionist and registered dietitian Sandra May said when preparing for a hurricane, keep in mind foods that do not have to be refrigerated before or after opening will not spoil over a period of a few days, require little to no preparation and can be prepared without electricity.
Be sure to have at least a three-day food supply for each person in the household, she said.
Another step for storm preparation is to make sure your home is ready.
AgCenter housing specialist Claudette Reichel said to remember the letter “S” for home projects. She said to inspect shingles, soffits, seals, shutters and surroundings.
Homeowners looking to replace a roof have hurricane-hardy options, such as wind-rated shingles and tear-resistant, synthetic underlayment. But if a replacement isn’t in the plans, Reichel said, homeowners can strengthen existing shingles with roofing cement.
“Put some dabs under the first course of shingles and along the gable ends where it is most vulnerable,” she said. Roof damage is the biggest homeowners insurance loss following hurricanes.
Reichel also recommended securing soffits with polyurethane sealant and stainless steel screws. “Soffits are less likely to get blown around and allow wind-driven rain into your attic and cause major damage,” she said.
Inexpensive caulk will seal holes where wires, cables and pipes enter or exit your house.
When high winds are expected, flying debris can damage windows. Shutters such as lightweight translucent removable storm panels are a good alternative to heavy plywood boards, Reichel said.
AgCenter horticulturist Heather Kirk-Ballard said landscapes can contain hazards during a storm. She recommends inspecting large trees and shrubs for dead branches. A licensed arborist should remove any trees or large branches that may be an issue.
“Be sure that anything that can be picked up by a heavy wind is secured,” she said. “That includes tools, chemicals, trellising and planters.”
Keeping drainage systems clear of debris is an important task for doing your part to keep stormwater from causing floods
Preparation also means getting pets and livestock ready for a storm. AgCenter veterinarian Christine Navarre said animals should have vaccinations and a check-up if necessary.
“Healthy animals will be better prepared to handle the stress of relocation,” Navarre said.
Microchipping animals or having identification for them in some way will help if you are separated from your animals. Navarre recommended storing identification numbers online in the cloud so they can be retrieved from anywhere.
She also said to prepare an emergency to-go box that includes contact information for animals’ veterinarians, medications, feed and leashes. It also is important to get a pet used to its pet carrier before it is necessary for the animal to be transported in it.
More information can be found at the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website at https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pets-and-disasters.