When Hurricane Laura raked Port Arthur, Texas in late August, a group of seven shrimp boat laborers found shelter in a local pool hall.
And when the Category 4 hurricane knocked out electricity, a gas generator was turned on to power the building. But the ventilation inside was far from adequate. The seven people spent all night breathing the odorless gas from the generator, causing severe carbon monoxide poisoning.
Three people were pronounced dead at the scene when police arrived on the morning of Aug. 28, and one was taken to a hospital in Houston. Three others were eventually sent into the care of a joint medical team from the Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center and the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine Department at the Brooke Army Medical Center on Fort Sam Houston, near San Antonio.
The hyperbaric chamber operated at that installation is one of the very few on the Gulf Coast that’s open for emergencies, and its medical teams maintain a 24/7-ready status for that purpose.