Hurricane Ida spared the Texas Gulf Coast. But the region is still feeling its effects, after evacuees from Louisiana began arriving to Texas’ easternmost counties over the weekend.
Joel Ardoin is emergency management coordinator for Orange County, Texas, just east of Beaumont. He told Texas Standard that storm forecasters were confident Ida would miss his area, so his office planned to shelter evacuees instead. Two shelter are currently operating, which are about 25%-50% full. He planned for as many as four shelters if needed.
Ardoin says evacuees from Louisiana first filled local hotels in Orange and Jefferson counties, then began coming to the shelters after hotels sold out.
The arrival of evacuees comes as Orange County, like the rest of Texas, deals with the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus. Ardoin says local hospitals are already full with COVID-19 patients; patients with other medical conditions often have had to be moved to hospitals elsewhere.
The risk posed by the delta variant was part of Orange County’s planning for Ida evacuees. Ardoin says the shelters aren’t filled to capacity to allow for social distancing.
Between the pandemic and now hurricane season, he says counties in his region are well-versed in disaster preparedness.
“I think as a whole, the Gulf Coast has been hit so much in the past 15 years that everybody’s getting very, very good at this, and kind of knows what to do and when to pull the trigger on it,” Ardoin said.
As for the ongoing pandemic response, he says Orange and four other area counties recently formed a coalition and established a COVID-19 infusion treatment to try to lower the hospitalization rate.
“That just started a week or so ago. And I think we’ve created a little over a thousand [treatments] somewhere around there, so far,” he said.