News Alert: Hurricane Season in the Midst of COVID-19 Threatens Catastrophe in the Caribbean
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released its forecast for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, predicting an above-normal season with three to six major hurricanes (category 3 or higher) likely. NOAA notes that the strong likelihood for above-average activity is driven by climate factors including warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
Mercy Corps warns that with many preparedness resources currently directed to virus response, a hurricane striking the Caribbean before coronavirus is contained would be catastrophic. Supply chains are already disrupted by lockdowns, posing challenges to the pre-positioning and delivery of emergency relief supplies. A hurricane may also further decimate tourism-reliant economies struggling to survive the almost total drop-off of tourism while also still rebounding from recent hurricane seasons.
Erynn Carter, Mercy Corps’ Senior Director for Humanitarian Response, explains:
"The Caribbean faces the nightmare scenario of a major hurricane hitting in the middle of an uncontained pandemic. Skyrocketing demand for health supplies has stretched supply chains. Difficulty accessing items like hygiene products and medical supplies will hurt much needed preparations for hurricane response. In the event of a major storm, supply chains would almost certainly be further limited by hurricane damage. This will threaten the lives of people who need medical care and equipment to fight COVID-19, and the lives of people with injuries and health crises caused or made worse by a hurricane.
On the economic front, a major hurricane might be the final blow to the many small and medium-sized businesses that have struggled to hold on after an almost total drop-off of the tourism industry during coronavirus lockdowns. Already battered by hurricanes during the last few seasons, devastated economies across the region are more vulnerable than ever before.”
Mercy Corps has mounted a humanitarian response to nearly every major hurricane in recent years, and is still doing active hurricane recovery work in The Bahamas and Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Dorian (2019) and Maria (2017).