The storms killed at least 31 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings in Monroe, Louisiana alone.
There, Mayor Jamie Mayo asked hotels to provide rooms for those who were left homeless due to the storms, as the virus epidemic made opening an emergency shelter potentially dangerous.
Help lines have been set up to find accommodation for those who do not have a safe place to stay.
In Chattanooga, about 50 residents of the nursing home had to be evacuated by bus to a neighboring hotel after the roof of the establishment was badly damaged during the storm, Amy Maxwell, spokesman for the Hamilton County Emergency Management Office.
First responders in some areas already taxed by the pandemic have been inundated with calls. The Hamilton 911 center received more than 1,300 calls, including 500 related to collapsed structures, said Maxwell.
The pandemic has thinned the ranks of Salvation Army volunteers, said Jeff Jellets, the organization’s coordinator for disasters in the Southern Territory, because many of his volunteers are retired and older, they are more at risk for the virus.
“We had to look at and reduce our typical worker cadre” to keep everyone safe, said Jellets.
Providing food to disaster victims has also become a challenge, said Jellets, as many stocks have been depleted, stores are no longer open 24 hours a day and shelves are not always stocked with what is necessary due purchasing and supply problems in the event of a pandemic.
“The new normal”
The Salvation Army is now working with restaurants to prepare food for non-profit organizations to distribute.
“As we progress, I think it will become our new standard,” said Jellets.
This is the third disaster the charity responded to during the epidemic, following the tornadoes in Arkansas and Tennessee recently.
“This is almost becoming the new standard for us,” said Jellets.
In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey has ordered communities to keep shelters open, despite orders to stay at the state house.
“Shelters and community safety rooms should remain open and accessible to all seeking refuge from this severe weather, while applying reasonable practices and procedures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among those seeking shelter,” said Ivey.
Some cities in Alabama said before the storms that they would only open “hard shelters,” not community centers or churches, for fear of the pandemic, reported WBRC, a subsidiary of CNN.
Coming out of the rubble
In Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards has said that he is asking FEMA to authorize assessments with photographs to reduce possible exposure to the coronavirus.
For some tornado victims, the virus was far from being in the foreground.
In Chatsworth, Georgia, where a tornado struck at approximately 9:30 p.m. Sunday evening, a couple and their two children hid under a mattress when the tornado struck. When they later emerged, their caravan and the caravan next to it were completely destroyed. Miraculously, no one was injured.
Monday, family and friends helped them sort through the rubble. They hugged and consoled themselves. Nobody wore a mask.
“I don’t think anyone is thinking about the virus right now,” said Kaila Shoemaker, whose brother-in-law’s caravan was decimated. They’re just trying to get their things – and their lives – back together.
Martin Savidge and Tina Burnside of CNN.