Hurricane Laura Current and Expected Impacts
Hurricane Laura made landfall near the Louisiana-Texas border along the US Gulf coast at approximately 1:00 am CT on Thursday, August 27 as a Category 4 Hurricane. By 12:00 pm CT that day, the storm had progressed into northern Louisiana, and had lost significant strength, regressing to a Tropical Storm. In Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas, Hurricane Laura is expected to produce 3-7 inches of rain, and will continue this trend as it moves through Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. Isolated parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas are expected to receive upwards of 18 inches of rainfall. Additionally, Eastern Tennessee, NW Alabama and NE Mississippi are under tornado watch as of Friday morning.
Impacts in Louisiana
Louisiana has had a number of major impacts, many of which have affected healthcare in the state, following the storm. Power outages have been widespread in the most heavily impacted areas of the state. Although power restoration is occurring, Cameron, Calcasieu, Jefferson Davis, Beuregard, Allen, Rapides, and Lapides Parishes reported at least 80% of accounts experiencing power outages within the first 24 hours after the storm passed. Multiple hospitals have been reported as running on generator power as power outages swept the state. Rx Open, Healthcare Ready’s tool to track pharmacy and dialysis center status to support emergency responders and patients, shows that Louisiana’s pharmacies have been drastically impacted, with only 63% of the state’s pharmacies reporting open as of the afternoon of August 27.
Impacts in Texas
Texas has also experienced major impacts from Hurricane Laura. Power outages are mostly restricted to counties near the Louisiana border, with Jasper and Orange counties the most highly affected; both counties are showing almost 60% of accounts reporting outages, and some hospitals were reported to be running on generator power. Rx Open is reporting that pharmacies in Texas have not been impacted as drastically as in Louisiana, with 91% of pharmacies reporting open. However, this is still a sizeable number of pharmacies (350) reporting closed or unknown status, especially because most closures are centralized in a few eastern counties like Jasper and Orange.
Regional Impacts on Supply Chain and Health
Although local areas have been devastated by Hurricane Laura, overall supply chain impacts have been relatively minor. Both Louisiana and Texas have seen road closures, and the closure of I-10 in particular has made deliveries into impacted areas difficult. But due to supply chain resilience and flexibility, and the work of groups like Louisiana DOTD and FMSCA in helping find routes, we don’t expect to see major delays in deliveries of products like medicines and medical equipment. Similarly, though the Port of Houston shut down 8/26 and 8/27, most other avenues of transportation, including airports, remained open and operational with minor setbacks.
Still, we will likely see health impacts later on due to another issue that has complicated this response – COVID-19. In Louisiana, all surge and community-based COVID-19 testing has been paused until Saturday August 29. And in both Louisiana and Texas, evacuations and sheltering have brought people in contact that otherwise might not have interacted, which might further spread of the disease. So even after the initial issues from Laura have passed, we recognize that additional impacts related to COVID-19 are still a risk, as Louisiana and Texas are still working to manage the pandemic while recovering from this devastating storm.