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What if severe weather hits during a shelter-in-place?

Can people gather at a shelter if need be? The American Red Cross is constantly preparing for severe weather events in the wake of COVID-19.

BRYAN, Texas — With severe weather season heading toward us, some people might be wondering how they can take shelter during a big storm.

Social distancing rules can make seeking shelter seem complicated, but the Red Cross of Bryan-College Station says they’re ready.

“It’s just a matter of time before we see severe weather across the Brazos Valley,” said Dr. Christopher Nunley, the chief meteorologist at KAGS.

COVID-19 is influencing city leaders to make shelter in place orders, which is great to flatten the curve and decrease the burden on hospitals, But severe weather can complicate things, and KAGS didn’t have to go far to find out it is coming. 

Dr. Nunley said, “we are going to see severe weather. Without a doubt. Weather it be tornadoes or damaging winds or large hail events, the chances increase as we transition out of March as we go to April, May and the beginning of June.”

And when a severe weather event happens in Bryan-College Station this year, people will need to take shelter, and the Red Cross says they’re prepared for that; Changing their existing protocols to fit social distancing in the wake of COVID-19. 

“We are working with local hotels, because that adds a level of separation. Should we need to open up a shelter, we now have screening protocols, and to let in and out and dividing, quarantining people who need more medical care, or that are testing, showing signs of possible coronavirus," said AJ Renold, the Executive Director of the Bryan-College Station chapter of the American Red Cross.

Usually,  the Red Cross provides shelter after disasters occur for anyone who needs it but with coronavirus in mind, “things change. So, we adapt pretty frequently, and that’s what we’re trying to figure out. We can make decisions pretty quickly,” Renold said.

When hurricanes have hit the coast, the Brazos Valley has been a safe haven for evacuees. The organization is also addressing the possibility of evacuees who might carry the virus. 

“Sheltering up to 400 people, in this area, should there be a need for that... what the difference is, should we have a hurricane or tornado, wherever we are able to set up a shelter. We’ll do the same screening process as everybody else,” she said, “it will burden the healthcare industry more than us, but we will manage as much as we can.”

All services the red cross provides and will provide in the future, even shelter at a hotel, will be free.

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