Houston hospitals bracing for the storm in the midst of pandemic

Ambulances from across Texas are waiting in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area, in case they’re needed for emergencies during and after Hurricane Laura. While at least seven local hospital campuses are now closed, at least three emergency rooms remain open.

One of the outpatient centers for St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont said they are converting to temporary housing for The Beaumont Police Department and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

They do not anticipate the closed hospital campuses, which include outpatient, wellness centers and orthopedic hospitals, to reopen until at least Friday.

Life flight ready for rescues

Life Flight is preparing to help neighboring communities that may face catastrophe within hours.

As we watch hospital capacity closely because of the coronavirus, local hospitals are accepting patients from the eastern part of the state and Louisiana who have had to evacuate the hospitals in their area.

“They are going through some of their evacuation stuff now. I’m finishing that up. So we do have some folks that are being transferred into some of the Houston area hospitals at this time,” said Tom Flanagan, VP of Trauma Services Life Flight.

Flood gates secured

Officials at the Texas Medical Center in Houston closed the flood gates Wednesday afternoon. Per emergency recommendations, the metal doors close eight hours before any storm makes nearby landfall.

Even though Laura is not expected to compare to major flooding disasters, hospitals in TMC learned a lesson during Tropical Storm Allison and won't be caught off guard again.

How storms change hospitals

According to UT Health, the doors are part of the building’s renovations after Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, which caused multimillion-dollar damage to the school, now named the McGovern Medical School.

“The basement level was flooded and some of the first floor so it was catastrophic. Research and our teaching activities within this building were completely halted for many weeks,” said Scott Patlovich, UT Health Assistant VP Environmental Health and Safety.

Three layers of flood protection were installed (costing $20 million):

  • An outer berm with water collection pits and pumps
  • A hydrostatic wall that provides protection 1-foot above the 500-year flood level
  • 23 outer and inner flood doors at McGovern Medical School

Other buildings within TMC installed similar storm protection.