Quebecers exiled in sunny Florida finalized the final preparations on Saturday before facing the passage of the hurricane Isaiah in this state already ravaged by COVID-19.
• Read also: State of emergency in Florida as Isaias approaches
“For Quebeckers, it might seem very risky, but Floridians are used to hurricanes and seem very calm. It is certain that with the pandemic, it is a little more stressful ”, underlined Marie Poupart, author and collaborator at Journal, who now lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
The center of the Category 1 (of 5) hurricane caused extensive damage in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas overnight from Friday to Saturday.
Isaiah, which was downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm on Saturday night, was blowing maximum winds of up to 110 kilometers an hour at 5 p.m. and emerging over the Florida Strait between the Keys and Cuba.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm would amplify and revert to a hurricane overnight [dernière] approaching Southeast Florida before advancing to the eastern coast of the peninsula.
On Saturday, John Boutin, owner of the Windjammer Resort hotel in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, finalized the preparations before the arrival ofIsaiah.
“Employees picked up the land and anything that could fly out, like chairs, trash cans and umbrellas,” he explained.
A bitter season
Fortunately, Mr. Boutin did not need to evacuate the few customers from his hotel … at least, not for this time.
For the businessman from Sherbrooke, the hurricane season is a stress that adds to the last difficult months.
“For now, it’s not that bad. But the months of August and September are always more active. Hoping that it will be quiet this year because we have already had our share of problems, ”he said, referring to the low number of tourists due to COVID-19.
Hospitals already overwhelmed
The passage ofIsaiah comes at the worst time for Florida, which has become one of the epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
Governor Ron DeSantis does not expect many evacuations, but has announced that hospitals, already overwhelmed by the coronavirus, may have to move patients depending on power cuts and floods.
If evacuations were to become necessary, it could pose a health problem, as it will be difficult to comply with social distancing guidelines in shelters.
Florida also had to close screening centers, often in tents, in anticipation of the arrival of the hurricane. County testing centers, fewer in number than state-run ones, will remain open.
“If we cannot get tested and we do not know that we are sick, there is a greater risk of spreading the virus,” suggested Marie Poupart.
No “hurricane party”
Florida citizens are used to congregating when there are hurricanes. This year, everyone will have to weather the storm at home.
“Normally, people have ‘hurricane parties’. They get together in one house to party, eat, watch the weather and listen to the media. Hurricanes are a pretext to get together, a bit like during the ice storm in Quebec ”, explained Mme Poupart.
She hopes Floridians will listen to the authorities, who are strongly asking to avoid this tradition.
– With AFP