Weather and COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we interact with others in public and private settings. The science tells us that social behaviors can have great influence on how easily the infection spreads. 

Non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI) strategies include wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distancing, limiting contact with others outside a small circle and adhering to regular hand washing and sanitizing of high-use surfaces. For many people, these actions have become part of the social compact. What about during other emergencies?

It is important to be prepared to face weather-related emergencies like flooding or storms while keeping COVID health measures in mind.

  1. Ready
  2.  Set 
  3.  Go 

Be Ready

  1. Travel with the “three essentials.” When out and about you should always have access to:
    1. Face covering
    2. Hand sanitizer
    3. Water

      With these resources you can stay hydrated, keep your hands clean and do your part to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus if you wind up in setting where social distancing is not possible.
  2. Know the natural hazard risks associated with the area you live and the places you visit. See DEM’s hazard viewer to conduct an address-level search:
  3. Monitor news and weather reports. The bad news: Snohomish County is at risk for an extensive menu of disasters, including earthquake, flooding, severe weather and wildfire. The good news: most of these hazards typically do not make surprise visits. You can always prepare and in most cases anticipate when the risk is at its highest.
  4. Scout your evacuation routes and identify sheltering options.
    1. How will you leave your home and by what means should the need arise? How about a backup plan?
    2. If an emergency displaces you from your home, is there a place you can go to safely shelter? Note: Snohomish County historically hasn’t opened evacuation shelters and is unlikely to do so during the pandemic because of the risks associated with bringing people together in confined spaces. 
    3. Hotels, motels and resorts have been operating during the pandemic but with modified or reduced services. They also are requiring guests to modify behaviors to limit the spread of the virus. Check ahead and arrive prepared.
    4. Know the risks if you plan on staying with family or friends. Are there people in your household, or at the destination, considered high risk for COVID? Is it possible to isolate them from others in the home? Wear masks and consider practices consistent with what the CDC recommends for public shelters. (See below.)
    5. Don’t forget the pets. Can you bring them with you to your shelter option?
  5. Are you two-weeks ready? We know that earthquakes can fracture the transportation grid, cutting communities into isolated “population islands.” Similar problems can arrive with flooding and powerful storms. Think roadways under water and routes blocked by fallen trees, downed power lines or deep snow. Part of living here safely means having a deep pantry, maintaining the ability to keep warm if the power goes out, and having sufficient supplies of prescription medications on hand to be independent for several days.

Keeping Safe

If you find yourself sheltering in a public space, these and other CDC guidelines can help keep you and others safer:

  • Practice social distancing. Stay at least 6 feet from other people outside of your household.
  • Follow CDC COVID-19 preventive actions — wash your hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, and follow shelter policies for wearing masks. Avoid sharing food and drink with anyone if possible.
  • Avoid touching high-touch surfaces. Try using a paper towel, sleeve or corner of your shirt on doorknobs or handrails. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol immediately after you touch these surfaces.
  • Keep your living area in the shelter clean and disinfect frequently-touched items such as light switches, door knobs, toys, cellphones, remotes, and other electronics.
  • Teach and reinforce everyday preventive actions for keeping children healthy.
  • Make sure children aged 2 and older wear masks; it is mandated for most people 5 and up. Masks should not be used by children under the age of 2. They also should not be used by people having trouble breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • Watch everyone in your group for any signs of illness and let the host know if you or others may be ill.