Shelter or socially distance; EMA director says seek shelter first

Published 4:23 pm Monday, April 13, 2020

Tornado season began in Alabama on Easter Sunday as storms swept across much of the state, causing a massive amount of damage and leaving many without power in their wake.

The storms couldn’t be more inopportune for Alabama and as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – 14 in Dallas County – and resulting deaths continue to climb, many are left with the question: seek shelter or socially distance?

Dallas County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and Homeland Security Director Toya Stiles said that, despite people’s fears of the virus, the storm is the greater threat.

“The storm is the most severe risk,” she said “Especially during times like [Sunday] night. Get to a shelter or a safe place. If the tornado actually touches down and people aren’t in a safe place, we could have many more fatalities than those caused by COVID-19.”

According to Stiles, all six storm shelters were open across Dallas County on Sunday night and so was Selma High School.

Stiles said that with the amount of space available at Selma High and only 10 to 12 people at each of the shelters, citizens were able to practice safe social distancing once they had arrived at a shelter or the school.

Masks, gloves, sanitizer and wipes were also made available to everyone who sought shelter Sunday night, a practice Stiles foresees taking place until the end of tornado season – the beginning of June.

“I see [COVID-19] lasting much longer than until April 30.” Said Stiles. “I recommend people take any tornado watch or tornado warning very seriously. I understand we’re dealing with COVID-19 right now, but finding a safe place, especially if you live in a mobile home, a tornado will cause much more damage than this virus.”