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How hurricane evacuations could be affected by pandemic

How the COVID-19 pandemic could affect hurricane evacauations in Coastal Bend.
Posted at 4:22 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 01:53:54-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — With another hurricane season rapidly approaching, how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Nueces County’s preparations in case a storm comes blowing across the gulf?

Hurricane season in the middle of a pandemic is hardly an ideal scenario, but it’s one Nueces County officials have been forced to consider this year.

"This is a tremendous dilemma,” said Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales.

Facing that dilemma head-on, Canales had her emergency management team re-think the county’s hurricane evacuation plans, working closely with their state counterparts.

“They would assist us in making sure we could evacuate safely in conjunction with the same good hygiene practices and social distancing that we’ve used,” said Canales.

That starts with changing the way the county approaches its staging area at the Richard M. Borchard Fairgrounds.

“The way we create our entrance, to the way we seat people, to the way we care for the animals - everything is going to change in our operations and logistics,” said Canales.

Canales says the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority would provide the county with pre-disinfected buses to help with evacuations. Also, if COVID-19 patients had to be evacuated, the county would find an alternate care facility in a nearby city like Austin.

“There’s several of them that have been vetted, so that would be a great example of where we would go,” said Canales.

And with the start of hurricane season less than two weeks away, Canales knows the clock is ticking.

“We’ve already seen one storm system develop in the Atlantic, that signals to us that this is real,” said Canales.

While the new evacuation policy isn’t finished yet, Judge Canales says she hopes it’s ready soon, with hurricane season starting June 1st.

Canales also stressed the importance of county residents having their own evacuation plans in place in case of a hurricane.