Emergency Update: Helping U.S. Communities Recover in Wake of 2017 Storms

Storms have torn through a large swath of the U.S. in 2017, with incidents including deadly flooding and devastating tornadoes.

In late April, at least 20 people were killed and dozens were injured as flooding and tornadoes swept through several states, including Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri.

In Missouri alone, several hundred people were evacuated and 33 required water rescues after flood waters rose rapidly. In Texas, a tornado swept through the town of Canton, killing four people and injuring at least 56.

Personal care packs, with items like soap and toothbrushes, were sent to SEMO Health Network in New Madrid, Missouri, on May 2. The packs are designed for those displaced by earthquakes, fires, flooding or homelessness, and intended for families of four. Direct Relief  has shipped more than $1.3 million in emergency aid to SEMO since 2011, including during the Joplin tornado that occurred that year. (Bryn Blanks/Direct Relief photo)

Direct Relief has contacted partner healthcare facilities in those communities to see what medicines and supplies are needed to treat patients who may have been injured or displaced by the storms. An emergency health kit was sent to 1st Choice Healthcare in Corning, Arkansas, which has five locations around northeast Arkansas. The area has experienced intense flooding, and the emergency health kit sent contains enough essential medications and supplies to care for 100 patients for up to three days.

In February 2017, six tornadoes tore through Louisiana, leaving trails of devastation that stretched as far as 23 miles across.

Thirty-nine people suffered injuries and nearly 800 homes and more than 40 businesses were damaged or destroyed across five parishes, according to state officials.

The Ninth Ward in New Orleans East, an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was among the hardest hit regions. At least 25 people were injured there and as many as half the area’s buildings were damaged. That includes several homes that were destroyed in Katrina and had since been rebuilt.

Soon after the tornadoes struck, Direct Relief made contact with city officials in New Orleans and health providers throughout the state.

In response to a request from EXCELth Family Health Center in New Orleans, located 1.5 miles from a hard-hit area, Direct Relief sent a hurricane prep pack with enough medicine and medical supplies to treat 100 patients for up to five days. Subsequent shipments have contained another 800 lbs. of requested medicine and hygiene items for people displaced by the storm.

Supplies from Direct Relief arrive at EXCELth in Louisiana (Photo courtesy of EXCELth, Inc.)

Dr. Monir Shalaby, supervising medical director of EXCELth, Inc., described a nearly two-mile-long stretch of homes that had been destroyed. As a result, the clinic saw an influx of patients who had lost their belongings, including their medicine. The tornadoes also damaged the homes of several clinic staff.

“I can’t tell you how much it’s being appreciated,” Shalaby said, speaking of Direct Relief’s assistance.

The tornadoes follow a series of weather-related emergencies in Louisiana, including historic flooding last year that prompted Direct Relief to deploy 139 shipments of emergency medical aid totaling more than $2.89 million (wholesale).

Further Reading

Death Toll Rises to 11 as Floods, Tornadoes Batter South

At least four tornadoes struck Texas east of Dallas. Both directions of Interstate 44 were shut down in Missouri. The storms have left at least 11 dead in Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas. Authorities in Arkansas are continuing the search to find two children who are missing after an attempted water rescue.

Louisiana tornado tally: 6 different tornadoes struck, officials say

The tally is in: A total of six tornadoes hit Louisiana on Tuesday (Feb. 7), with tracks as long as 23.3 miles and speeds as high as 150 mph, according to preliminary inspection information by the National Weather Service released Thursday.

John Bel Edwards declares state of emergency in Louisiana after tornadoes

Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency in Louisiana Tuesday (Feb. 7) after tornadoes and other storms hit much of South Louisiana including Ascension, Livingston, Orleans, St. James, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa Parishes. “I am heartbroken to once again see Louisiana families suffering in the wake of devastating tornadoes today,” said Edwards in a written statement.