HOUSTON — The number of pharmacies that Hurricane Harvey forced to close — at least temporarily — ran into the hundreds late last month as the mammoth storm pounded southeast Texas.
Drug chains, mass merchandisers and supermarketers shuttered stores with prescription counters throughout the region as Harvey battered the area with high winds and rain that turned streets and highways into rivers. Retailers scrambled to set up mobile pharmacies to meet residents’ medical needs, and to provide emergency supplies at stores that remained open.
The damage from the storm was projected to potentially exceed the $15 billion caused in 2004 by Charley, the last category 4 hurricane to make U.S. landfall.
Walgreens at one point had about 90 stores closed. For the stores that continued to operate, the company was providing frequent deliveries of water and other items. The chain was also working with the American Red Cross to see how it could help with additional recovery efforts.
Walmart was forced to shutter almost as many stores, including Supercenters, Sam’s Club outlets and Neighborhood Markets.
Both Walmart and San Antonio-based H-E-B dispatched mobile pharmacies. Walmart sent the units to Rockport, Portland and Aransas Pass. H-E-B mobilized its Emergency Response Team and dispatched Disaster Response Units (DRUs), which have a pharmacy, to its store in Victoria. The units allowed displaced residents to fill prescriptions, cash checks and pay bills, as well as have access to an ATM.
The DRUs were part of an H-E-B convoy of more than 15 vehicles that included two mobile kitchens, water and fuel tankers, and trailers. More than 100 H‑E‑B employees volunteered to accompany the convoy and assist affected residents. The convoy delivered supplies including food, water, ice, dry goods and medicine.
As the hurricane approached, CVS Pharmacy and the CVS Caremark pharmacy benefits manager activated a process allowing pharmacists to provide one-time emergency refills of a 10-day supply of medication. With evacuation orders in effect along the Texas coast, CVS urged patients to visit stores to ensure they had the medications they needed to ride out the storm. The chain reached out to pharmacy patients via text message and email to remind them to refill scripts before the severe weather hit, said Kevin Hourican, executive vice president of retail pharmacy and supply chain for CVS Health.
CVS also stocked stores with emergency items including water, batteries, flashlights and first aid supplies.
Also prior to the storm, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation made a commitment to provide support for relief efforts through cash and product donations of at least $1 million. The company worked closely with the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Convoy of Hope while coordinating efforts with elected officials and governmental entities to help meet the needs of those affected.