Weathering the Storm: ODs Seek Silver Lining in Hurricane Harvey

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NEW YORK—“The Hurricane was coming right at us before it shifted northeast and hit Rockport,” McAllen, Texas’ Fred Farias, OD, FAAO and current member of the AOA board of trustees told VMail Weekend. “I have two friends whose practices and homes have been affected very badly. Their offices won’t have any electricity because the entire city of Rockport won’t have electricity for the next 4 to 5 weeks.”

Hurricane Harvey, which hit southeastern Texas last week has left the area and its residents devastated. As of Sept. 1, the AOA reports that 14 practices have applied for Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, which aims to help practices rebuild after tragedies such as Hurricane Harvey. Predicted to be the worst hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast since 2005, Hurricane Harvey made landfall late on Aug. 25 as a Category 4 storm, and released more than 20 inches of rain, American Optometric Association (AOA) reported. On Aug. 27, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center in Miami indicated rains would continue for the next few days and some areas could see as much as 50 inches of rain.

For practitioners such as Ron Hopping, OD, past president of the AOA and owner of Hopping Eye Associates, Hurricane Harvey has unified the industry even more. “The outreach from the optometry community has been really special,” Dr. Hopping told VMail Weekend. “I’ve had a doctor call and offer to fly his staff in to help run our practice while we were at home taking care of demands that we might have.”

As experts continue to assess the situation in Houston and offer possible solutions, some Houston ODs are lending a helping hand via social media. Bridgette Shen Lee, OD, of Vision Optique shared useful posts throughout the weekend on her Facebook page. In addition to giving day-to-day updates about her practice, Dr. Lee reposted Tox Doc Tips about what kinds of masks to wear when returning to homes, mandatory evacuation information and various links to donation sites.

HaoTam (Tami) Phan, OD, of Perfect Vision Associates in Sugar Land, Texas took to her social media to showcase the various efforts she and other residents have been putting in. She, along with some friends, delivered some blankets, towels and water to the shelter at Phap Luan Temple, dropped off some food at Terry High School in Rosenberg and delivered blankets and towels to George Junior High School.

Dr. Phan also posted evacuation information, a video urging other colleagues to donate to NFL player JJ Watt’s Houston Flood Relief Fund, announced that several Vietnamese churches were open for those who needed shelter and also highlighted efforts by other colleagues.

For their part, Eyecare Associates Texas urged other residents to donate to not only the Houston Flood Relief Fund and the American Red Cross, but to remember our furry friends and donate to the SPCA as well. On Aug.31, Eyecare Associates Texas announced that it was accepting donations to be delivered to the NRG stadium, which was housing residents who had been displaced by Hurricane Harvey. The practice urged anyone who could to donate blankets, pillows and towels, reusable grocery bags for evacuees to put their items in and basic medical supplies—among other necessities.

Eye Elegance in Houston, started posting warnings on Aug. 26. As the flood waters began to rise and roads became dangerous, the practice posted an article linking to all roads residents should avoid if they had to drive and several tips on what people should do if they are trying to escape rising floodwaters. Once they reopened their practice, Eye Elegance encouraged patients who needed help with their eyewear to come into their store, if they could safely do so.

As the severity of the storm—which caused national shipping companies such as Fed Ex and UPS to suspend deliveries to the affected areas as of midweek—left many in the area still trying to assess the overall damages, optical companies are still stepping up with donations to aid relief efforts, as VMail reported.

"People are not going to be able to go back home for a long, long time," Beverly Newhouse, OD, of Elite Vision Care told the AOA. "I've been here since 1998, and I've never seen anything like it. When the rain stops and the flooding recedes, this is going to be so devastating."