Gulf of Mexico

TX - What happens if a hurricane hits Texas in the middle of a pandemic?

DALLAS — While many weddings, birthdays and graduations have been put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters don’t wait.

Hurricane season officially kicks off June 1, and it could be a busy one — a season even further complicated in the middle of a pandemic.

An outlook issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts a 60% chance of above-normal activity this hurricane season, with 13 to 19 named storms. Of those storms, the center predicts six to 10 could become hurricanes, and three to six of those could be major hurricanes — Category 3 or greater.

The outlook predicts only overall activity, not where hurricanes are most likely to make landfall, but what happens if a hurricane were to strike the Texas coast in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic?

A worst-case scenario would be a major hurricane hitting the coast in late October as cold and flu season begins and as cases of COVID-19 could see a second spike across the country, according to Dr. Thomas A. LaVeist, dean of Tulane University’s school of public health and tropical medicine.

“That could be devastating,” LaVeist said. “That will be a huge strain on resources.”

Ordering an evacuation is typically the to-go response during a major hurricane, but officials will have to weigh whether that is the best course during the COVID-19 crisis, LaVeist said.

“It’s not only the risk of the hurricane. It’s also the risk of the evacuation,” LaVeist said.

Those with underlying health conditions or caring for someone at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19 could be more reluctant to evacuate and choose to ride out a storm, LaVeist said.

“The complexity of the decision-making is going to be a lot more complicated,” LaVeist said.

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