Hurricane Delta is already bringing rains and high winds to portions of Texas and Louisiana in advance of its expected landfall Friday afternoon.
The Category 2 storm, registering winds of more than 105 mph, has prompted a hurricane warning for stretches of coastline that include the Texas community of Port Arthur and parts of Louisiana, including Lafayette and Lake Charles, which was badly damaged from Hurricane Laura. Laura, which made landfall in late August, destroyed more than 10,000 structures, and many residents in the area are still displaced from that storm even as the latest hurricane looms.
Even before Hurricane Delta shipping activity began, Direct Relief made 41 shipments, valued at more than $780,000, to 15 partners in response to this year’s Gulf Coast hurricanes, Laura and Sally. Many of these supplies are still being utilized as Delta approaches the same area.
On Thursday, ahead of the storm, Direct Relief sent out offers of emergency medical support to more than 50 health care partners in the region, with 36 of those health facilities in Louisiana, seven in Mississippi, and nine in Texas, said Leighton Jones, Direct Relief’s Director of U.S. Emergency Response.
Responding in Advance
On Thursday, an emergency request of prescription medication, including insulin, over-the counter medications and other supplies was filled for the Eunice Community Health Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. Lafayette Parish is currently in the storm’s path, and evacuations have been ordered, prompting at least two local shelters to be opened, where the Eunice Community Health Center will be assisting with medical needs.
Staff at MLK Health, a health center based in Shreveport, Louisiana, also told Direct Relief staff that they are opening their previously staged Hurricane Preparedness Pack to serve residents at two recently opened shelters in Bossier City and Shreveport, Jones said.
The packs are part of the Hurricane Preparedness Program, which pre-positions caches of medicines at free clinics and health centers throughout storm-prone communities in advance of tropical storm season. The packs include antibiotics, first aid equipment, and supplies to treat chronic disease, like diabetes and hypertension, in the aftermath of a disaster.
Staff are also reviewing emergency requests for medicine from the City of New Orleans Health Care for the Homeless, which is preparing three clinics and an emergency shelter. That organization was able to open their previously staged Hurricane Preparedness Pack Friday, and Jones said Direct Relief is ready to process additional needs for medication as well. Requests for medicine are also being reviewed for CareSouth, a federally qualified health center with sites in the Baton Rouge area.
Earlier this week, an Emergency Health Kit, packed with essential medicines and supplies, was sent to the Mobile County Health Department in Alabama. The community is still reeling from the impacts of Hurricane Sally, which made landfall in September. The kit will serve needs from that storm, and any that may arise because of Delta’s impacts, Jones said.
Direct Relief staff are in communication with the Louisiana Primary Care Association, State Department of Health, Texas Association of Community Health Centers, and Texas and Louisiana chapters of VOAD, or Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, among others.
Delta’s reach in the U.S. was preceded by an earlier path through coastal Mexico, where major infrastructure damage was reported in the Yucatan Peninsula and 40,000 people in the area were evacuated ahead of the storm. Fifty emergency medical backpacks were shipped this week to first responders in the Yucatan Peninsula, in anticipation of potential needs in the area.
Evacuations and Health Concerns
Mandatory evacuations have been issued in multiple parishes across Louisiana, and the health challenges of evacuation are myriad, heightened exponentially by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Thousands in Louisiana remain out of their homes from Hurricane Laura’s devastating sweep through the region, and this latest storm could disrupt fragile health services even more.
If evacuees experience a disruption in their insulin supply or medicine for high blood pressure or asthma, once-manageable conditions can quickly escalate, prompting an emergency room visit, even as local health systems reach critical capacity. U.S. safety-net health centers and free clinics serve many of those who would be disproportionately impacted by such an event
Direct Relief will continue to provide operational updates as Hurricane Delta impacts become known.