Flood evacuations may be a lot different due to COVID-19

Published: Mar. 30, 2020 at 5:59 PM CDT
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Rain is about the last thing we need right now.

Flooding is already a concern in the Ozarks. Couple that with the coronavirus, and emergency crews could have quite the challenge on their hands. The challenge would be where to put people yet still try to prevent any COVID-19 cases from spreading.

In the past, if people were forced to go to a shelter, it meant large groups in close quarters. But this year, things may be quite a bit different. The rivers are already running high. Flooding is a typical risk each spring in the Ozarks. But this year.

"We're concerned this year that flooding could hamper our ability to address COVID-19 cases and vice versa," said Kristina Dahl, Senior Climate Scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Someone who is in a group of people that are evacuating to a shelter together could potentially be carrying the virus and transmit it to other people."

Kristina Dahl is worried about the impact of these two significant events, maps show the collision of flooding and a pandemic. The problem is people escaping floodwaters usually have nowhere to go and end up in a shelter.

"Typically they have not been set up to allow for 6 feet of social distancing between people or isolation of people who are sick," said Dahl.

Greene County emergency management is teaming up with the Red Cross to deal with it.

"Social or physical distancing would be that 6 foot rule," siad Amy Russell with Springfield-Greene County Emergency Management. "So in the shelter there may be more space between cots, things of that nature."

Dahl suggests planners look at another possible solution.

"Many hotels right now are empty because people aren't traveling,, said Dahl. "Those sorts of places could be ideal for housing people who are evacuating because people would have individual rooms, individual bathrooms to use, and much less communal space."

Russell thinks we might need more shelters to space people out.