Texas' Tropical Storm Cristobal response complicated by COVID-19

Tropical Storm Cristobal moved off the Yucatán peninsula Friday afternoon and into the Gulf of Mexico. As that happened Governor Greg Abbott was in Austin being briefed on its projected path toward Louisiana.

The governor, along with the directors of Texas DPS and State Emergency Management were told the storm will strengthen. By late Sunday or early Monday, it could bring heavy rain and strong winds; mainly to East Texas. The Governor warned the path could shift.

RELATED: Gov. Abbott holds press conference on hurricane preparedness

“You can see even under current modeling, it’s predicted to move a little more to the west before it reaches the shoreline, if that western projection begins early, or becomes more pronounced, it means that Texas will be a greater focal point from where that storm may come across the land,” said Abbott.

The briefing took place in an Austin hotel ballroom. It was described as an "alternate emergency operation center." People from several state and federal agencies have been there for a while. The space was set up to track COVID-19, but the viral outbreak has now complicated the storm response.


“In typical Texas fashion we are dealing multiple challenges in one particular time,” said Governor Abbott.

As with all major storms, the state coordinates with local authorities.

Coordination and clear communication are even more critical now.“We cannot have any missteps in evacuation,” said Nim Kidd.

Logistical equations regarding mass transports, according to Kidd who heads up the Texas Division of Emergency Management, are now different because of the viral outbreak.


Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 7 Austin News app. It is FREE!

Download for iOS or Android


“How we used to be able to put 50 people on a bus, that number may be down to 15 now,” said Kidd.

Modifications to the hurricane evacuation plan, Kidd went on to say, includes setting up more shelters because of more space needed to meet social distancing requirements. There are also plans to contract with hotels to take in evacuees.

How to deal with Nursing homes have already been made according to the Governor.

“We have strategies in place already, in the event that it is needed, to ensure that those in nursing homes, in the affected area, will be able to be, moved very safely, and what I mean safely obviously, in the usual safe standards, but also safely as in COVID-19 safe,” said Abbott. 

RELATED: Americans urged to prepare for busy Atlantic hurricane season amid COVID-19 pandemic

As for all of the first responders who have been activated, the governor said this storm season will be unlike any other. Safety equipment that not only protects from the weather will now be required to reduce exposure to the virus.


FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.