Millions of residents on the East Coast are weathering Hurricane Matthew, the category 4 storm that officials are calling the strongest in decades.
Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas are in the hurricane’s most direct path, and millions of residents have been warned to evacuate and seek shelter.
- Credit: Brandon Burke, Global Empowerment Mission
After causing devastation days earlier in Haiti, Hurricane Matthew’s impacts are expected to be extensive in the U.S., with flooding – coastal as well as inland – reaching levels that haven’t been experienced in decades.
The National Hurricane Center reported winds of 140 miles per hour on Thursday, while forecasters warned of even greater wind speeds, storm surges that could exceed 10 feet, and widespread power outages along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.
Direct Relief Responds
Direct Relief has made available its entire inventory of medicines and supplies – valued at nearly $100 million – to help people affected by Hurricane Matthew.
In addition, the organization has committed up to $250,000 in cash to assist with the storm response.
Over the past several days, Direct Relief has been coordinating with staff and partner health facilities in Haiti, where it prepositioned two specialized modules in Haiti in anticipation of this type of event.
These modules contain enough emergency medicines and medical supplies to treat up to 5,000 people for a month and ensure healthcare providers have what they need to treat patients on-site after a disaster. This way, the damage that occurs to roads, bridges, and ports does not affect their ability to respond.
Another 86 pallets were shipped recently to Haiti and have arrived in the country. The shipments, sent in preparation for the storm, are equal to about five ocean freight containers, with a total value of $13 million. When the country’s roads open up, the pallets will be delivered to at least a dozen hospitals and clinics.
Direct Relief works with more than 200 U.S. health centers and clinics in regions affected by Hurricane Matthew. In advance of the storm, 9 emergency supply packs were stationed along the hurricane’s coastal path.
Each pack contains enough medicine and supplies to treat 100 patients for three to five days after the hurricane hits.
As the situation changes in communities affected by the storm, Direct Relief will mobilize additional resources as they are needed.
Though the storm poses a threat to anyone in its path, certain populations are more vulnerable to its effects than others.
That’s because a hurricane’s human cost is determined as much by a community’s ability to react — and bounce back – as by its wind velocity and the volume of rain it packs.
A multitude of social and environmental factors influence a community’s vulnerability to hurricanes and other emergencies.
These four top the list:
- Mobility: In advance of Hurricane Matthew, Florida and the Carolinas have called on coastal communities to evacuate inland. For elderly residents and those without access to a car or other forms of transportation, compliance with evacuation orders can prove challenging. Geography can also present an obstacle. For example, islands in the Florida Keys are connected to the mainland by a series of bridges. There, and in similar areas, transportation is a problem on a good day. Hurricane Matthew could compromise mobility even further.
- Poverty: Not everyone within a hurricane’s path is equally at risk. In fact, many of the locations most vulnerable to hurricanes are inland and in rural areas. One reason is that people living in coastal areas tend to be wealthier, better prepared, and able to evacuate quickly if needed. Inland areas may also suffer from flash flooding and mudslides. Medical clinics that serve the poor and underinsured are often the most impacted by hurricanes because the populations they serve are disproportionately affected. Without the ability to pay for care, patients may avoid follow-up appointments or forgo treatment altogether.
- Health: In emergency situations, people who depend on medications for chronic conditions – primarily diabetes, asthma, and hypertension – are particularly at risk if their medications are unavailable. People often leave their medication at home during mass evacuations. Also, power outages can compromise insulin or other supplies that require refrigeration. Disabilities are another risk factor. People with hearing or visual impairments may not receive real-time evacuation information, and people with physical limitations may be unable to heed public safety warnings.
- Language: Language barriers can hinder all areas of emergency response. They can prevent residents from communicating with dispatchers and keep doctors from talking with patients in a triage tent. Effective communications are also critical before a crisis. For example, certain communities are more likely to receive warnings from and rely upon social networks rather than official channels. These communities may experience delays in receiving warning messages as a result.