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Hurricane Evacuations in Pandemic Quarantines

WHEREAS, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) seeks to address environmental and climate change risks that disproportionately affect communities of color; and

 WHEREAS, forecasters predict an above-average 2020 hurricane season, beginning June 1st; and

 WHEREAS, one of the factors that the predictions are based upon is the above-average sea surface temperatures present across the Atlantic, because warm surface temperatures fuel the development of hurricanes; and

 WHEREAS, Atlantic hurricanes can bring heavy rain, high winds, destructive tornadoes, storm surges, and inland flooding that may result in mass casualties if states are not well equipped and prepared to respond to disasters; and

WHEREAS, in 2005, the destruction and casualties after Hurricane Katrina exposed a series of problems in the local, state, and federal governments' emergency responses; and

WHEREAS, as a result, years of hardship disproportionately affected the low-income and Black communities of New Orleans; and

WHEREAS, a similar cycle of disproportionate hardship followed in the wake of such major hurricanes as Andrew (1992), Irma (2017), Maria (2017), Florence (2018), and Michael (2018); and

WHEREAS, in October 2018 the potent hurricane Michael crashed into the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 Hurricane and brought catastrophic storm surge and sustained winds that altered the face of the state. Coastal communities, farm communities and forest communities saw devastating losses. Lives were impacted across southern Mid-Atlantic States of Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia; and

WHEREAS, during Hurricane Michael, in Bay County Florida alone, more than 40,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by flooding and wind. More than 1400 federally assisted rental homes were destroyed or substantially damaged. This resulted in 10,000 people being displaced, worsening the preexisting affordable housing crisis. Minority communities were impacted in a great way; and

WHEREAS, Hurricane Michael revealed weaknesses in FEMA's communication and processing services. Survivors with the lowest incomes and having the greatest needs faced barriers receiving FEMA assistance. Lack of housing led to homelessness, it led to homeless people living in cars, tents and other uninhabitable and unsafe conditions; and

WHEREAS, state officials must prepare for the 2020 hurricane season, as the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, imposes a global threat; outbreaks across the globe have infected millions of people, and the number of casualties reach new levels each day; and

WHEREAS, as states are implementing infection prevention measures, their focus must shift to the idea that the pandemic and major hurricanes will occur simultaneously; and

WHEREAS, as part of the infection prevention measures, states have issued stay-at-home orders to combat COVID-19 outbreaks; while the standard procedure in hurricanes is evacuation orders for residence in flood zone areas; and

WHEREAS, if both orders are issued, then governments will need to inform Americans – particularly low-income people – about which order takes precedence.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP urges Congress, state legislatures and municipalities coordinate with emergency management officials to develop plans for shelters, as well as quarantines, and organize a unified message to communicate to citizens.