Sunday, July 26, 2020

Hurricane Activity: Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Regions. June 26, 2020

Tropical Storm Hanna to make landfall in South Texas between Corpus Christi and Brownsville--rainfall totals of over 5 inches are possible in these areas along the coast and inland as far as Laredo, with locally higher amounts where bands of rain stall for a period of a few hours. A few communities could receive up to 15 inches of rainfall leading to dangerous flash flooding and some river flooding.  The RC View map below shows current rainfall projections as well as the establishment of DR 489-21 to respond. 

Friday night, Hanna was less than 200 miles from the Texas coast, and the National Weather Service has issued a Hurricane Warning from Baffin Bay northward to Mesquite Bay, Texas, including Corpus Christi. We’re planning for about 1,800 people seeking shelter from the American Red Cross in Texas over the next few days, and we’re working tonight with the State of Texas to coordinate hotel rooms for those who may evacuate to San Antonio due to flooding along the path of the storm.  As we do every year, we’ve pre-positioned thousands of cots, blankets, and other shelter supplies across the Gulf Coast.  Unlike every other year, this year we’ve also deployed thousands of surgical masks, gloves, face shields, gowns, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) aimed at mitigating our workforce’s and clients’ risk of COVID 19 infection.  The PPE is one part of our “layered defense” against COVID, which also includes placing fewer clients in more shelters (to maintain social distance) for shorter stays.  Our overall sheltering strategy for this season is outlined below:

On Sunday, we’re expecting Hurricane Douglas—Douglas is the first Eastern Pacific major hurricane of 2020—to affect Hawaii.  This evening, Douglas is a Major Hurricane (Category 3) about 980 miles East Southeast of Honolulu, Hawaii.  Douglas is moving at 30 MPH towards the Hawaiian Islands and the National Weather Service has issued a Hurricane Watch for the Big Island of Hawaii and for Maui County, including Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe.  While we expect Douglas to weaken a bit over the next two days, he is expected to be near hurricane strength when he nears the islands.  Moreover, unlike some past tropical storms and hurricanes, Douglas could affect the entire island chain, not simply the Big Island.  We anticipate Douglas will bring heavy rain beginning Saturday night or early Sunday causing flash flooding and mudslides.  Additionally, strong and potentially damaging winds are possible in Hawaii Sunday with tropical-storm-force winds possibly arriving as soon as late Saturday evening on the Big Island.  DR 490-21—a level 3 operation—is preparing for about 2,400 people in the path of this hurricane to seek shelter from the American Red Cross.  In both Texas and Hawaii, we’re planning for sheltering to be a combination of congregate shelters (schools, churches, community centers) and non-congregate shelters (hotels, motels, college dormitories) depending on location, availability, and volume of evacuees.

Elsewhere, tiny Tropical Storm Gonzalo is headed for the Windward Islands Saturday, but we expect Gonzalo to weaken. Once in the Eastern Caribbean Sea on Sunday, Gonzalo will encounter a hostile environment, which will likely reduce any threat it might later pose to U.S. interests.  That said, small storms like Gonzalo can intensify quickly, so we’ll need to keep an eye on it because some models have it re-emerging late next week in the Gulf of Mexico.  And, then, there’s Invest 92L—that orange “X” below right behind Gonzalo:

On the satellite imagery in RC View, here’s what this looks like:

92L is what’s called a “tropical wave” right now and it’s a few hundred miles south of Cabo Verde Islands.  We expect this wave to move westward during the next several days, and it could become a tropical depression early next week when it reaches the western tropical Atlantic.  The National Hurricane Center gives this wave a 50% chance of formation over the next 5 days.  Early models look like this map below—so, we have a potential cyclone threat to Puerto Rico and USVI over the next week, and a similar threat in the Gulf Coast or along the Eastern Seaboard in 10 days to 2 weeks.  We’ll be watching this one…

The 2020 Hurricane Season was forecast to be well above average, and, so far, it’s living up to the forecast.  Hanna and Gonzalo broke records for being the earliest named Atlantic storms of their respective place in the alphabet.  Hanna was the eighth named storm in the 2020 Atlantic hurricane.  To put that in perspective, we’re already as far down the name list as we would be in late-September in an average hurricane season, which makes this the most extreme pace of storms in recent history.  Further, in the Atlantic, we’re expecting 20 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-6 hurricanes Category 3 or higher.   To prepare for this season (and the concurrent Western Wildfire season, which is also predicted to be above normal), we’ve initated a focused Seasonal Readiness Campaign with Volunteer Services that has generated over 1,000 new disaster volunteers and the qualification and/or promotion of 1,700 affiliated volunteers.  That’s an incredible achievement, especially in the face of COVID-19.

As you can see from the chart below, COVID 19 has not changed the mission we do…

…but, COVID-19 does change the way we do the mission.

CY-20 is already outpacing CY-19 for disaster activity—separate and apart from COVID-19.  Going into this weekend, we begin with about 256 clients in a dozen hotels around the country—over 12o clients for DR 486-21, a particularly devastating flash flooding incident in Missiouri, and nearly 100 clients for DR 488-21 due to a 65 unit apartment building fire earlier this week.  Hotels and other non-congregate settings help to mitigate the risk of infection and community spread, so, when sufficient hotel rooms or other non-congregate options are available, we provide hotel stays in lieu of congregate shelters—over 40,000 hotel overnight stays since mid-April.  We work with our partners—government, non-profits, and corporate donors—to provide the same services to our non-congregate clients as we do for our congregate clients: feeding, health services, mental health services, spirtual care, casework, and financial assistance.  Over the past several months,  Throughout the COVID 19 pandemic, we’ve delivered services virtually to the greatest extent practical, but, there’s a certain amount of mission that can only be delivered through presence.  That’s why, over the past few months, we’ve deployed over 1,000 volunteers to DROs, and assigned over 6,000 volunteers to support the mission virtually.  In addition to our increasing diaster responses, we’ve delivered over 200 separate missions across 39 Regions in direct response to COVID-19 including mass care support for those in quarantine, feeding for school children, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations facing food insecurity due to COVID, and missions to support mask distribution, crisis phone banks, and other services.

When we assess the humanitarian need caused by COVID 19, we find that the recent surge of infections in the United States is so extreme that, once adjusted for population, ten states—including hurricane-prone Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas—are recording more new cases than any country in the world.

To actually SEE the face of Disaster 2020: Response in the Time of Climate Change and COVID, I urge you to visit our on-line story map—no special access needed: just click.

Please let us know if you need anything from the Red Cross or see an opportunity for us to partner as we respond to these events.  Thanks to the entire team—please remember to C-D-C: Cover your face with a mask, social Distance, and Clean your hands often.  Whether you’re on or off Red Cross duty, please protect yourself to protect the mission.

We’ll keep you posted.


American Red Cross | National Headquarters | 430 17th . St. NW (G217) | Washington, DC 20006

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