FIRST A GLOBAL PANDEMIC and now hurricanes. Seems Mother Nature is having a bit of a tantrum.

However, with a record eight named storms already born in the Atlantic and a ninth expected to form, Ocean County emergency officials are ready if a major tropical system approaches our coast.

“We already had a close call with Tropical Storm Fay, which came ashore just south of us earlier in July,” said Freeholder John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. “With so many more months to go in hurricane season and looking at the number of named storms we have already seen, we have to remain vigilant.”

And preparation this time around means also dealing with the ever-present threat of COVID-19.

“There’s no question that COVID-19 will make storm preparations more challenging,” Kelly said. “However, our Office of Emergency Management has already made plans on how to deal with pandemic safeguards during any evacuations.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also issued guidelines for how local agencies should prepare for a storm-related disaster.

“We understand that things would be different if a hurricane strikes during the pandemic,” said Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy.

The sheriff asked all residents to prepare in advance, before a major storm approaches the county.

“If you can safely evacuate to a friend or family’s home, that’s the thing to do,” Mastronardy said.

Social distancing may be difficult in public shelters and the CDC has updated its rules on how to stay safe at a shelter, which include the usual guidelines for social distancing and wearing masks.

“Also be aware that shelter locations could change because of the need to protect residents from COVID-19,” he said.

Mastronardy recommended residents keep an extra stockpile of nonperishable food items in their home.

“Also make sure your prescriptions are filled and up to date,” he said.

As usual, residents and visitors should also pay close attention to local weather reports.

“Forecasts usually give us at least five days warning of a dangerous storm,” Kelly said. “Pay attention and be ready to act.”

If you are evacuated to a shelter, it is recommended to bring blankets/sleeping bags/pillows, change of clothes, cash/credit card/checkbook, family documents, birth certificates, insurance policies, stock certificates, medicine and prescription drugs, infant formula/food, special dietary foods and diapers.

In addition to having a household Disaster Supplies Kit, it is important to have Animal Supply Kits and Take-Along Bags for service animals and pets. Pet kits should include: a two-week supply of water and food, non-spill food and water dishes, cage/carrier labeled with contact information, favorite toys and treats, leash, collar and harness, litter, litter pan, paper towels and plastic baggies, and pet medication.

It is also advised to make sure that your pets and service animals have current ID tags, and that their vaccinations are current.

Mastronardy also encouraged residents with disabilities to sign up for Register Ready, New Jersey’s Special Needs registry for disasters. The program provides information to emergency responders so they can better meet specific needs of disabled residents in the event of a disaster or other emergency. “This registry not only helps our senior and special-needs residents, but it also provides information so that residents can be checked on during weather emergencies,” Mastronardy said.

To register online, go to www.registerready.nj.gov and click on the Register Ready icon at the bottom of the page.