CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Hurricane season is already underway and it’s happening during a national pandemic.
That has left Chatham Emergency Management Agency busy making plans to handle both emergencies at the same time.
Friday, at the Chatham County Commission meeting, they gave us our first look at what will change this year.
It’s been a work in progress for months.
“There are, as I said, quite a bit of complexities across the board in everything that we touch regarding hurricane season," said CEMA Director Dennis Jones.
Because of COVID-19 a lot will change. For example there will now be multiple Emergency Operation Centers and the process for the evacuation assembly area will change too. Not only will they work to keep people socially distanced, but they will require masks.
“So everyone who is working that facility, everyone who goes through that facility will be required to have personal protective equipment," explained Jones. "In addition to that we’ve also had conversations with our bus contractor and we’ve put in mitigation measures with our bus contractor to ensure that we are social or physically distancing.”
They already know more buses will be needed. But they are also planning to need a lot more sheltering space too. This after the Red Cross nationally announced their shelters would be limited to just 50 people.
While in the past Chatham County could send 2,000 residents to Augusta, now they are limited to just 500. CEMA leaders say they are looking for other host communities to make up the difference.
“Out of everything that we are coordinating right now for hurricane season I think that’s probably one of the ones that we’re a little more unsure of right now,” explained Dennis Jones to the Chatham County Commissioners Friday morning. “We’re still working actively, daily on trying to find a good solution for sheltering.”
While they are looking at every detail county leaders want you to prepare now too.
“You must be aware this hurricane season," said Chairman Al Scott. "Personal preparedness is going to be more important this particular hurricane season than ever before,” said Chatham County Chairman Al Scott.
CEMA officials tell us they are still figuring out the exact cost of COVID-19 on hurricane season and hope to have that number at the next county commission meeting.