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


Extreme Weather

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).

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