Louisiana begin unique storm preparations amid pandemic

Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 9:51 AM CDT
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Louisiana state officials say the coronavirus pandemic is complicating preparations for incoming Tropical Storm Cristobal, expected to make landfall this weekend.

Though he does not expect to stand up shelters for Cristobal, Governor John Bel Edwards says workers have already positioned tents inside those facilities to promote social distancing and keep groups separated. The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) has stockpiled masks and gloves inside shelters in anticipation of a storm that could force people out of their homes.

“It’s not the optimal time to do congregate shelters because people may come into the shelter with COVID-19,” Edwards said. He added the state and the federal government are also planning to use hotel rooms, vacant because of the pandemic, as temporary shelters.

Edwards encouraged Louisianans who are not already receiving food stamps to preregister for disaster food stamps, called DSNAP benefits. Louisianans who have registered in prior years will need to reapply because the state is using a new system.

Louisianans can find disaster checklists

, which have been updated to include equipment uniquely necessary for fighting the coronavirus during hurricane season.

Meanwhile, Central residents who live along the Blackwater Bayou are readying RVs and moving belongings to elevated areas. They say packing for a tropical storm is tragically simple this year, since the surprise floods in 2016 already robbed them of sentimental items they would otherwise be protecting ahead of Cristobal’s landfall.

“If it does flood, it’s never easy, but we won’t have the torment we had [in 2016],” 40-year Central resident, Cheryl Jeanmard, said. “All the sentimental stuff is gone. The few little pieces we have, we’ll put up.”

She and her husband rented a storage facility to store furniture and other items. She says they already stocked up on groceries during the pandemic.

Their son is one of more than 300,000 having a tough time finding employment while the economy is reeling. She says two of her friends have already died from COVID-19 complications.

“You cry. You get upset. You fuss at God,” she said. “You’re never at peace. You’re never going to rest until this thing is gone.”

Edwards says he knows some Louisianans are feeling overwhelmed, which is why the state’s

remains active.

“The people of Louisiana are very tough and resilient. It’s not that I don’t worry about them. I do,” he said. “But I’m just always amazed at how decent and hardworking and faithful people are. We are going to be just fine, but we are taking nothing for granted.”

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