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Disaster fatigue continues with the start of hurricane season

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Home Depot customers walk past hurricane preparation supplies for sale on May 27, 2021 in Doral, Florida.

Home Depot customers walk past hurricane preparation supplies for sale on May 27, 2021 in Doral, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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Tuesday, June 1, is the official start of hurricane season. Last year, the National Hurricane Center ran out of letters in the alphabet, and had to start using the Greek alphabet to name storms, and meteorologists are forecasting another active hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean this year.

For emergency managers, last year was like no other, “because in addition to having hurricane season, we were dealing with a global pandemic,” said Josh Morton, emergency management director in Saluda County, South Carolina.

Morton said coming up with new hurricane preparedness and shelter plans that factored in social distancing was a challenge. “Most of our emergency management partners did a very good job of adapting, and we learned a lot last year that we can bring forward to this year.”

There’s also a lot of disaster fatigue carrying into this season, said Samantha Montano at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. That’s true particularly along the Gulf Coast, “where you have had multiple hurricanes, multiple flood events, winter storms, pandemic, a few tornadoes,” Montano said, all in the last year. “In talking with emergency managers, you can definitely sense the fatigue in having to go through this many disasters in such a short window of time.”

With climate change making extreme weather more common, building the capacity of emergency management systems is critical, Montano said.

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