After Hurricane Ida in LaPlace, La., On Monday, August 30th, 2021, people will be evacuated from floods.
It’s a familiar story to anyone in Louisiana or Southeast Texas: a storm is brewing, one community in need reaches for another, and help comes.
In 2017, it did so in the form of Houstonians fleeing Harvey, which haunted the city for five days. In 2005, New Orleans residents moved to Houston after the levees broke, causing flooding that killed more than 1,800 people and destroyed homes across the city.
That story repeated itself again this week when groups from the Houston area began assisting Louisians who got in the path of Hurricane Ida after the Category 4 storm devastated the state’s Gulf Coast region over the weekend.
Houston nonprofits like the Houston Food Bank and West Houston Assistance Ministries have sent resources to those hit by the storm, the latter of whom have already taken in Louisiana residents and supplied them with groceries and toiletries, according to a press release.
Matt Toomes, chief operating officer of the Houston Food Bank, said the group has enough supplies but is in dire need of volunteers to pack food and items for hurricane salvage.
“We are currently building asap,” Toomes said in Houston Matters on Tuesday. “But we fear that we will not be able to meet the demands from Louisiana.”
Some hospitals in the Houston area, like the Houston Methodist, are preparing for a potential influx of Louisiana patients – especially those on dialysis, according to Dr. Ben Saldana, the hospital’s medical director for emergency care.
“When people emigrate, they have to find dialysis units. It’s probably the most important thing we are prepared for besides the regular emergencies,” he said. “So we’ve strengthened our community partners to make them aware that we may need them. “
However, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases has put a strain on the area’s hospital systems and some hospitals in the Houston area are unable to help. In a statement, a Harris Health Systems spokesman said Ben Taub and LBJ – both safety net hospitals – could not admit additional patients due to overcapacity.
Texas is sending emergency resources and personnel to Louisiana to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
We will never forget the kindness, generosity and support Louisiana offered during Hurricane Harvey four years ago.
When neighbors help neighbors, America is stronger. pic.twitter.com/pKMnGONUeS
– Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 30, 2021
Governor Greg Abbott announced Monday that, at the request of Louisiana officials, Texas would deploy resources and personnel to aid the state’s recovery efforts. The state plans to deploy a helicopter, 14 crew members, 30 fire engines and 132 firefighters.
“We will never forget the kindness, generosity and support Louisiana offered during Hurricane Harvey four years ago,” Abbott tweeted.
Houston and Louisiana have a long history of helping each other during the storm. An estimated 250,000 New Orleans people came to the Houston area during Hurricane Katrina, according to the Washington Post. When the disaster was over, tens of thousands stayed and made Houston their new home.
During Hurricane Harvey, thousands of Texans found shelter in Louisiana to avoid the devastation wrought in southeast Texas in 2017. Several Louisiana residents, known informally as the “Cajun Navy”, traveled by boat to Texas to help those affected by the storm at the time.
In this file photo dated August 27, 2017, evacuees wade through the floods of Hurricane Harvey on a section of Interstate 610 in Houston. Many Houstonians escaped to safety from the Louisiana storm, part of a long history for the state and the Texan city to help in times of need.
Tulane University in New Orleans closed Tuesday and began evacuating all remaining students on campus by bus to Houston. The closure will last two weeks, with online classes resuming on September 12, according to the university’s website. Face-to-face classes will resume on October 11th.
“Tulane is currently setting up a hub in Houston to provide food and accommodation to students at Tulane’s expense until they get a flight home,” the announcement said. “Emergency funds are available for students who need additional financial support.”
For freshman law student Garrett Clark, it meant returning to his home in Beaumont just two weeks earlier after moving to Louisiana. Clark, who spoke about Houston Matters Tuesday morning, said he hadn’t waited for the school to evacuate but went to Beaumont hours before the rush when he learned the severity of the storm. And he’s not the only one.
“I’ve heard of a decent number of students, most of whom have left, some have stayed, and they are all safe,” said Clark. “Right now, Tulane is becoming a refuge that Tulane has set up for all of the students who stayed in Houston.”
The hurricane may have postponed his classes, but Clark doesn’t plan to stay at Beaumont long. He plans to return to New Orleans as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Clark doesn’t know how to spend his time, but is grateful to be leaving Ida’s path.
“It’s just a way of figuring out what to do for the next long time and where to go and where to stay and how to take lessons,” he said.
The effects of Hurricane Ida are likely to extend beyond Louisiana’s borders. Companies along the Gulf Coast have shut down about 5% of the country’s refining capacity, and many are still waiting to assess the damage from the storm. This could lead to a temporary spike in gasoline prices, according to Ed Hirs, an Energy Fellow at the University of Houston.
Hirs added that some refineries could take up to six weeks to resume operations.
“It will have an impact that will drag on through the country’s supply chain for many months to come,” said Hirs.
Groups across the state have also worked to help, such as Minuteman Disaster Response in McKinney and Texas Baptist Men in Dallas, both of whom have dispatched disaster relief teams to Louisiana.
The American Red Cross dispatched 600 volunteers to support relief efforts and has already built two shelters in southeast Texas – the Orange Church of God and the Orange County Convention and Expo Center. According to Jennifer Sparks, a spokeswoman for the organization’s Texas Gulf Coast region, the group plans to create more.
Sparks said the Red Cross is currently overwhelmed by multiple disasters across the country, adding that the organization is in dire need of volunteers and donations.
“We anticipate this will be a long-term operation as this was a pretty catastrophic storm,” said Sparks. “Our disaster recovery phase may take months, possibly even years.”
Additional coverage from Kyra Buckley, Matt Harab and Andrew Schneider.