Storm shelters and COVID-19

Social distancing during severe weather

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Emergency management agencies are preparing for severe weather Sunday. This is normal practice this time of year but the threat of COVIS-19 is creating concerns that some people may not go to storm shelters.

Many people rely on storm shelters in their community to protect them if there is a tornado. A lot of people can fit into some of the shelters. But that’s a problem today with the coronavirus.

St. Clair County EMA Director Patrice Kurzejeski understands it’s a difficult time families. Do they ride a tornado threat out at home or seek shelter with a lot of other people? Possibly exposing your family to the coronavirus? EMA is advocating seeking shelter but protect yourself.

“We are asking them to bring their own masks, even if it’s homemade cloth mask. Your own hand sanitizer. Try not to touch your face. Any part of your face while there,” Patrice Kurzejesk, St. Clair County EMA Director said.

Kurzejeski said after leaving the shelter take off your clothes and shoes before going into your home. If your are positive with the coronavirus contact your health provider to let them know and wear personal protection equipment if you can.

There is a big storm shelter in the Smithfield Community. It offers protection for neighbors. In fact this community was hit back in 2011. Alyse Andrews, a mother of a young girl, lost her house to the storm. She has a new home nearby. Still, we asked her what will she do if a tornado is coming. And Andrews says despite losing that house, the family survived. She is not going to the shelter because of the possibly exposure to the coronavirus.

“It’s the death rate and I’m really scared of dying.”

Andrews says the coronavirus scares her more than the tornado.

Dr. Mark Wilson said this afternoon, the decision is up to you, but he says seek shelter.

“If a tornado is heading your direction, that is much higher danger than infection COVID-19. So please keep that in mind. That is when everyone needs to make the best judgement call and suspend the rules briefly during that time.” Dr. Mark Wilson, Jefferson County Health officer said.

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