Hurricane Delta battered part of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday, and the U.S. Gulf Coast is bracing for impact later this week.
Delta is expected to make landfall in the U.S. on Friday, and could send a second deluge into areas already damaged by Hurricane Laura, the Category 4 storm that swept through western Louisiana in August. Delta will be the 10th named storm to hit the U.S. during the 2020 hurricane season, a record.
Direct Relief will be responding with medical aid as needed for communities affected by the storm. The organization prepared several shipments on Wednesday, based on requests from health care providers.
A busy storm season means a high level of medical need. In addition to preparing a response to Hurricane Delta, 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.
Shipments Prepared for Mexico, U.S.
Delta brought 110-mph winds ashore south of Cancun, Mexico, early Wednesday. About 40,000 people in the area were evacuated ahead of the storm, and though damage to power lines and local infrastructure has been reported, no injuries have yet been tallied.
Fifty emergency medical backpacks were prepared for shipment to first responders in the Yucatan Peninsula, in anticipation of potential needs in the area.
Similarly anticipating the medical needs of people and communities in Delta’s path, staff at the Mobile County Health Department in Alabama requested an Emergency Health Kit, which is filled with medicines and supplies often requested after disasters. The request was initially to assist in recovery efforts for Hurricane Sally, which swept through Alabama in September, but with the track and timing of Hurricane Delta, staff were working to get the supplies in by landfall Friday.
In addition to the shipments, Direct Relief has dozens of caches of medicines already stored across the U.S. Gulf Coast as part of its Hurricane Preparedness Program. The medical kits, which are staged at free clinics and health centers in advance of tropical storm season, include antibiotics, first aid equipment, and supplies to treat chronic disease, like diabetes and hypertension, in the aftermath of a disaster.
New Storm, Enduring Concerns
With widespread evacuations in the Yucatan, and other evacuations unfolding in portions of Louisiana, displacement presents new health challenges beyond the acute threat of a storm’s high winds or grounded power lines. Evacuees are at risk from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and care for chronic conditions may be interrupted. 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.
In addition, not everyone within a hurricane’s path is equally at risk.
People may be more vulnerable to a storm, and less likely to recover, based on a host of factors, including whether residents are very young or elderly, have access to transportation, or speak a language other than English. Those most vulnerable to a disaster like a hurricane are most vulnerable the day before a storm hits. U.S. safety-net health centers and free clinics serve many of those who would be disproportionately impacted by such an event, and Direct Relief will respond to medical requests from these facilities as the storm advances and during its aftermath.