AUSTIN, Texas — As Tropical Storm Cristobal makes its way through the Gulf of Mexico, on Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott spoke about hurricane preparedness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Abbott said that the predictions as of June 5 show that there will likely be a heavy rain event in various regions of East Texas, as well as high winds in southeast Texas.
Gov. Abbott said troops have been made available from the National Guard to help out with potential flooding with the use of high water vehicles and rescue helicopters and planes as needed.
Additionally, Gov. Abbott said there were several Texas departments providing support to any potential water rescues as necessary, including the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Forest Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is applying the state's COVID-19 response to its hurricane preparedness, Gov. Abbott said. Abbott said this is the first time he knows of in which the state has to deal with a storm this size and a pandemic simultaneously.
Gov. Abbott said plans are in place to safely, regarding COVID-19 and the storm, transport those in nursing homes if need be. He also said the state is working with HHSC to ensure the safety of everyone who will need to evacuate if it comes to that.
Gov. Abbott mentioned the state is considering having evacuation plans that include having families stay in hotel rooms instead of usual evacuation procedures in order to keep people safely distanced.
Abbott said the Department of State Health Services is also working to coordinate the state's COVID-19 response with the tropical storm with populations most affected.
According to the governor's office, the Texas Department of Emergency Management has developed precautionary strategies in preparation of hurricane season in conjunction with COVID-19. The strategies include the following:
- Working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local partners to expand sheltering footprint
- Ordering more buses and aircraft, if needed, to increase social distancing during evacuations
- Working with local officials and nursing homes to evacuate earlier
- Ensuring medical staff, personal protective equipment, cleaning crews, and cleaning materials are readily available
- Ensuring COVID-19 testing is available at shelters
Gov. Abbott said the state is urging residents in the most likely affected river, within 50 miles of the Sabine River to be prepared for possible evacuations and to pay attention to local officials.
Additionally, Chief Nim Kidd of the Texas Department of Emergency Management said any deviation in the current projections for the storm may cause Texas to be more affected than expected.
Kidd said this may mean evacuations may come earlier than in previous storms to ensure safe evacuations regarding COVID-19.
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