The Atlantic

First Came the Virus. Next Come the Storms.

We will soon enter the most dangerous time of year for natural disasters. But the pandemic has turned disaster planning on its head.
Source: Joe Raedle / Getty

In March, as the country watched a strange new disease spread from coast to coast, leading researchers at Colorado State University released their annual forecast for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season. Their predictions were not comforting: an “above average” season, with an estimated four major storms (Category 3 or higher) and a nearly 70 percent chance that at least one of those major storms strikes the U.S. coast.

Responding to a major storm amid an ongoing pandemic would present huge challenges. Emergency managers across the Atlantic coast, already engaged in the fight to contain the novel coronavirus, have had to reimagine nearly every aspect of their traditional hurricane-response plans before the season begins on June 1. They must then find some way to communicate these new protocols to an overwhelmed and fearful public. And they must accomplish these feats under more strain than ever before.

“The people that deal with disasters are, to put it in plain English, exhausted,” Irwin Redlener, the director of the

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