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The Entire Team – Ready to Support Louisiana

For weeks, we have been monitoring the potential for significant flooding in Louisiana, along with the other states currently being impacted by the Mississippi River flooding and historic water levels. And similar to their actions to mitigate the impacts of flooding in Missouri several weeks ago, today the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Morganza Spillway in Louisiana to help minimize damage to property, structures, and to protect millions of people from historic flood levels.

Our thoughts are with all of those affected by the breach of the Morganza Spillway. While the Army Corps is responsible for levee maintenance and control and the decision to breach this Spillway, FEMA, the USDA and the rest of the federal family are focused on ensuring the safety and recovery of the people and communities we serve, and at the direction of President Obama, we have been working with the state of Louisiana for quite some time to prepare for this event.

USDA wants to assure all farmers who purchased crop insurance and whose crops have been damage by the flooding that you will be eligible for crop insurance indemnities in accordance with the provisions of your crop insurance policy. To all of those producers who are unable to plant, but have purchased crop insurance, you will be eligible for prevented planting payments in accordance with your policy.

In preparation for this action, under the leadership of Secretary Napolitano, FEMA has already deployed staff, including a Federal Coordinating Officer, on the ground in Louisiana. These staff, along with our Regional Administrator, Tony Russell, are in constant contact with the governor and his emergency management team, and are working side by side in the state’s emergency operations center. In addition to personnel on the ground, we’ve identified a staging area in the Baton Rouge area, to ensure the needed supplies, such as water, meals, and blankets, are located close to the affected areas, should they be needed.

In the past two weeks since historic floods have affected the Mississippi River Basin, both of our agencies have been providing updates on the situation and working closely with state and local officials to assist impacted communities and help get people back on their feet. This will continue to be a team effort. Working together, in support of all of our state partners being impacted by this flooding, we will do everything we can to help mitigate this damage and protect the families, farmland and communities we serve.

Photos 4: Support Efforts for Southern U.S. Tornadoes and Flooding

Here's a look at some of the photos from this week. For our latest updates, stay tuned to this blog.

If you or someone you know has sustained losses in a county that is designated for federal assistance, apply for assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov, on your phone at http://m.fema.gov, by calling (800) 621-3362 / TTY (800) 462-7585, or by visiting a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) near you (find DRC’s on your phone).

HS Secretary Janet Napolitano stopped in Cherokee Valley, Ga., near Ringgold, to see the destruction of the April 27, 2011 tornado.
Ringgold, Ga., May 8, 2011 -- DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano stopped in Cherokee Valley, Ga., near Ringgold, to see the destruction of the April 27, 2011 tornado. She met with residents who lived through the tragic event. She was joined by Charley English, Director of Georgia's Emergency Management Agency.


DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano meets with residents of Ringgold at the First Baptist Church.
Ringgold, Ga., May 8, 2011 -- DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano meets with residents of Ringgold at the First Baptist Church during her visit to the tornado ravaged area. With her are Tom Stufano (Left) Chief of Staff of the Georgia disaster, and FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer, Gracia Szczech (Right).

Janice Sawyer, Site Director for the Capitol River Chapter (Miss.) of the American Red Cross, points to a flooding home.
Vicksburg, Miss., May 11, 2011 -- Janice Sawyer, Site Director for the Capitol River Chapter (Miss.) of the American Red Cross, points to a flooding home in Vicksburg, Miss. The Red Cross is assisting in the ongoing response and recovery efforts. (Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross. See more photos, videos, and updates from the Red Cross.)

Officials with multiple agencies discuss plans for removal of the April tornado debris.
Birmingham, Ala., May 11, 2011 -- FEMA Region IV Administrator Phillip May (left); US Army Corps of Engineers Commander, MG Todd T. Semonite; FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) Mike Byrne; Alabama Emergency Management Agency Executive Officer Jeff Bayard; FEMA Deputy FCO, Joe M. Girot, and other staff, discuss plans for removal of the April tornado debris. FEMA Public Assistance funds can pay a portion of debris removal cost.

Volunteers with the Salvation Army help unload a truck of home furnishings for disaster survivors.
Raleigh, N.C., May 12, 2011 -- The Salvation Army staff partner with the Green Chair Project to help disaster survivors in North Carolina re-furnish their homes. The Green Chair Project makes donated home furnishings available at a low cost to individuals and families identified and referred to Green Chair by its partner agencies. FEMA is responding to severe storms and deadly tornadoes that damaged or destroyed homes and businesses across North Carolina on April 16, 2011.


FEMA officials look at a map showing storm damage in the city.
Pleasant Grove, Ala., May 6, 2011 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate (right), Alabama Emergency Management Executive Officer Jeff Byard, Mayor Jerry Brasseale, and FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Michael F. Byrne look at a map showing storm damage in the city. State and local officials are partners wth FEMA in disaster response and recovery.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and State Senator Roger Bedford greet applicants for assistance at the FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center.
Hackleburg, Ala., May 6, 2011 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate (center) and State Senator Roger Bedford (right) greet applicants for assistance at the FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center. FEMA is here to assist storm affected residents recovery from the deadly April tornado.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate speaks to State and local officials, the press, and others at the Phil Campbell Rescue Squad building.
Phil Campbell, Ala., May 6, 2011 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate speaks to State and local officials, the press, and others at the Phil Campbell Rescue Squad building which is being used as a disaster service center. Administrator Fugate is touring some centers to assess needs and meet with officials in areas affected by the April deadly tornado.

Our Role: Continuing to Support Ongoing Flood Fight

Editor’s Note: Updated on May 10, 5 p.m. EDT 

Yesterday, President Obama made federal disaster assistance available to individuals in five counties in Missouri and Tennessee, to supplement the state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding.  

If you live in an eligible county and have sustained losses, you can register for assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov, on your phone at http://m.fema.gov, or by calling  800-621-FEMA (3362) / TTY 800-462-7585.

If you have flood insurance, this is a good time to locate your policy and proactively contact your insurance company to find out what information you may need to have on hand if you need to file a claim.  For general flood insurance questions, a step-by-step guide to filing a flood claim, and more information about flood insurance, visit http://www.FloodSmart.gov or call 1-800-427-4661.

And as we continue to support the response to the severe storms that affected the Southeast earlier this month, we are also continuing to closely monitor the ongoing flood fight along the Mississippi River Valley, its tributaries and other low-lying areas.

Historic flood levels have been set at many locations where the river has crested, and thousands of Americans are continuing to be affected. Here's a rundown of what we’re doing to support the flood fight, and what you can do if you live an area at risk for flooding:

What we're doing
Through our regional offices in Atlanta, Ga., Chicago, Ill., Denton, Texas, and Kansas City, Mo., we remain in close contact and coordination with our state and local partners in all of the areas affected by, or potentially impacted by, flooding. And as the crest moves down the Mississippi River, we will continue to coordinate closely with officials from the states of Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

At the request of the states, we currently have staff on the ground in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee working with state emergency management partners, to coordinate federal support. Last week, President Obama declared emergency declarations for Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana, and a major disaster declaration for Kentucky, allowing the federal government to support emergency measures to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety.

In addition to personnel on the ground, we're also sending supplies to a pre-determined staging area in western Kentucky to ensure the needed supplies are located close to the affected areas. Here’s a quick look at the supplies at the staging area so far:

  • More than 720,000 meals,
  • More than 460,000 thousand liters of water,
  • More than 39,000 blankets,
  • More than 20,000 tarps and
  • More than 14,000 cots.

Aerial photograph of Nashville, Tennessee last year showing flood damage.
Nashville, TN, May 4, 2010 -- An aerial photograph shows the extensive flood damage to Nashville during last May's flooding.

What you can do
If you live in an area that may be affected, follow the directions of local officials (including evacuation orders), as record flood levels are anticipated as the crest continues to move down river.

The National Weather Service remains the source for official weather information, and has issued flood warnings across several states, from Cairo, Ill. to Baton Rouge, La., including Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana as rivers are forecast to crest over the next few weeks. You can track your local forecast at www.weather.gov or on your phone at http://mobile.weather.gov.

Become familiar with the terms that are used to identify a flooding hazard and discuss with your family what to do if a flood watch or warning is issued:Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information

  • Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

For more flood safety and preparedness tips, visit Ready.gov, and check back on the blog for the latest updates.

What We’re Watching: 5/6/11

Getting Assistance to Survivors
President Obama has made federal disaster assistance available to individuals and business owners in several states in the past two weeks – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee.  If you are in an area that has received a disaster declaration, and you haven't yet, now is the time to register for assistance.  Visit www.disasterassistance.gov to apply online, or http://m.fema.gov to apply on your smartphone.  You can also call (800) 621-3362 / TTY (800) 462-7585 or visit a disaster recovery center in your area.

Ongoing and Potential Flooding in Central U.S.
As we continue to support the severe storms and tornadoes that affected the Southeast last week, we are also continuing to closely monitor the ongoing flood fight along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, their tributaries and other low-lying areas.   Through our regional offices in Kansas City, Mo., Chicago, Ill., Denton, Texas and Atlanta, Ga., we are in close coordination with the affected states and stand poised to support them as needed.

The National Weather Service remains the source for official severe weather information, and has issued flood warnings across several states, from Cairo, Illinois to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, including Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana as rivers are forecast to crest over the next few weeks. On May 4th, President Obama declared emergency declarations for Mississippi and Tennessee, and a major disaster declaration for Kentucky, which allows for additional federal support to state and local governments.

If you are in a potentially affected area, follow the directions of local officials and heed all evacuation orders, and check out this blog post for more tips on flood safety.

Public Service Recognition Week, May 1-7
As Public Service Recognition Week comes to a close, we’d like to extend a heartfelt “thank you” to all those who work behind the scenes to support local communities, cities, and the nation.  This video from the White House blog gives a special thank you to those in the Federal family from First Lady Michelle Obama:

Tips on Staying Safe Before, During and After a Flood

We are working with local, state and federal partners as they continue to battle the ongoing flooding in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys.  Through our regional offices in Kansas City, Mo., Chicago, Ill., Denton, Texas and Atlanta, Ga., we are in close coordination with the affected states and stand poised to support them as needed.

On May 4th, President Obama declared emergency declarations for Mississippi and Tennessee, and a major disaster declaration for Kentucky, which allows for additional federal support to state and local governments.

Floods can occur in all 50 states, so whether or not you live in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys, there are steps you can take today to get prepared.  Here are tips on what you can do to prepare before, during and after a flood:

Before a flood

  • Get flood insurance – Flooding can cause significant damage to homes and businesses, so protect yourself from the financial risk by purchasing insurance.   Flood insurance policies typically take 30 days before they take effect, so don’t wait until it’s too late.  Visit FloodSmart.gov for more information on flood insurance.
  • Safeguard your possessions - Create a personal flood file containing an inventory of your possessions, important personal documents and a copy of your insurance policies.  Keep it in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box or waterproof container. 
  • Prepare your house - Place the furnace, water heater, washer, dryer and electrical components on cement blocks at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation.  Also, make sure your sump pump is working and install a battery-operated backup, in case of a power failure.
  • Develop a family emergency plan – Plan and practice a flood evacuation route from your home, work or school that takes you to higher ground.  Make sure your family knows how to contact one another in the event of an emergency, and ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be your emergency family contact. (And don’t forget to plan for your children and pets.)

During a flood

  • Go to higher ground and avoid areas subject to flooding
  • Do not attempt to walk or drive through flowing streams or flooded roadways
  • Listen to the direction of local officials and stay updated by following local news reports
  • If you come in contact with floodwaters, wash your hands with soap and disinfected water. 

After a flood

  • If your home has suffered damage, call your insurance agent to file a claim. 
  • Check for structural damage before re-entering your home to avoid being trapped in a building collapse. 
  • Take photos of any floodwater in your home and save any damaged personal property. 
  • Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their purchase date and value with receipts, and place with the inventory you took prior to the flood. Some damaged items may require disposal, so keep photographs of these items. 
  • Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety. 
  • Boil water for drinking and food preparation until authorities tell you that your water supply is safe.
  • Prevent mold by removing wet contents immediately. 
  • Wear gloves and boots to clean and disinfect. Wet items should be cleaned with a pine-oil cleanser and bleach, completely dried, and monitored for several days for any fungal growth and odors. 

For more information on getting prepared for floods visit Ready.gov or m.fema.gov.

Get FloodSmart: One Month until Hurricane Season Starts

As we’ve seen from the damage caused by the recent tornadoes and severe storms that hit the Southeast, as well as flooding all across the country, natural disasters can be devastating.  They can happen anytime, anywhere, and often without much warning.

While we can’t prevent natural disasters, there are steps we can take to get ready for them, and as we head into the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season next month (June 1st), now is the time to get ready.  Flood insurance policies typically take 30 days before they take effect, so now is the time to invest in preparing your homes and businesses for the heightened flood risks associated with hurricane season.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Past hurricane seasons have illustrated how seasonal flooding can be devastating and costly.  In fact, flooding is both the most common and the most expensive type of natural disaster in the U.S., but many people still lack adequate insurance protection, and homeowners insurance doesn’t typically cover flood damage.

You may not realize that flooding from hurricanes and tropical storms can extend beyond the Gulf and Southeastern coasts as well.  The largest amounts of rainfall from hurricanes are often produced by slow moving storms that stall out miles from a shoreline.  As these storms move inland, high winds and torrential rains increase the likelihood of flooding.  The bottom line is, floodwaters don’t stop at coastlines or floodplain boundaries; everyone is at risk.  It’s important to insure your property no matter where you live.  Check out this blog post from earlier this year if you have questions about flood insurance.

Flood insurance is available through more than 85 insurance companies in nearly 21,000 participating communities nationwide.  Most everyone can purchase flood insurance – including renters, business owners, and homeowners.  Flood insurance is also affordable.  The average flood insurance policy is around $600 a year.  And in moderate- to low- risk areas, homeowners can protect their properties with low-cost Preferred Risk Policies (PRPs) that start at just $129 a year.  Individuals can learn more about their flood risk by visiting FloodSmart.gov or calling 1-800-427-2419.

The Red River Flood Fight: Visiting the Team in Action

Author: 

Yesterday I concluded a three-day visit to North Dakota to get an up close look at the flood fighting efforts going on in the Red River Valley. This was my fourth trip to the state this year, and I continue to be impressed by the spirit and resilience of these communities.


FEMA Region VIII Administrator Robin Finegan in rain gear thanks North Dakota National Guard members wearing uniforms for all their hard work. She's shaking their hands
Fargo, ND, April 10, 2011 -- FEMA Region VIII Administrator Robin Finegan thanks North Dakota National Guard members for all their hard work. Photo: Micahel Rieger/FEMA

 

While meeting with state and local leaders and first responders, I saw firsthand the can-do spirit of the residents and local leaders that has been so critical as they fight these floods year after year. The entire community is involved and it is truly inspiring.

TV camera in foreground. FEMA Region VIII Administrator Robin Finegan and North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple stand at podium and talk with members of the Media about the flooding Cass County which is seeing historical flood levels.
Fargo, ND, April 11, 2011 -- FEMA Region VIII Administrator Robin Finegan and North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple talk with members of the Media about the flooding Cass County which is seeing historical flood levels. Photo: Micahel Rieger/FEMA
At FEMA, we also are proud to be part of that community flood fighting effort. An Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) from our region is currently deployed to North Dakota and a Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) vehicle is in Fargo-Moorhead to coordinate federal response assets. Numerous federal agencies are involved in functions ranging from search and rescue operations to law enforcement to interoperable communications. Based on state requests, FEMA directs federal agencies to provide the needed assistance.

This coordination hasn’t just happened over night. Since last spring, we have been working with states and tribal nations across our region to plan and prepare for this spring’s flooding, but as we often say at FEMA, we can only be as prepared as the public is prepared, and the people of North Dakota have once again stepped up in a truly dramatic fashion.

When I was up in North Dakota, I also was privileged to see the dramatic difference that mitigation efforts made in the City of Grand Forks. The community was devastated by the Red River floods of 1997, but through investment, community involvement, and planning, along with a combined federal, state and local partnership, the community rebuilt both a better and a safer community. It’s a shining example of what we can do when we bring all our resources together for a common goal.

The Red River flood fight will most likely continue for weeks, but this is a challenge that the people of the Red River Valley are ready to meet.

News of the Day: Flood insurance – another way to prepare

We often make the point that disasters can happen anytime, anywhere.  Sadly, natural and man-made disasters often happen with little to no advance warning, and result in significant damage to homes, businesses, and a community’s peace of mind.

We often promote three simple steps to getting prepared for disasters: making a kit, creating a plan, and being informed.  One element of creating your emergency plan includes thinking about how you and your family will recover from the financial damages that a disaster can cause.

As this story in the Wall Street Journal points out, purchasing flood insurance is one way to protect yourself financially in case disaster strikes. Read the full article, and talk to your insurance agent today to find out more.

Other links
Visit FloodSmart.gov for information on the benefits of flood insurance for home owners, renters, and businesses

News of the day: Midwest Flood Fight

We’ve talked a lot about the flooding in the Midwest that’s forecasted, or is already happening, for the Midwest this spring. Previous blog posts have discussed how individuals can get prepared and what we’re doing to assist the other members of the emergency management team.

However, we wanted to specifically highlight some of the actions being taken by those team members --- State and local governments, voluntary and faith-based organizations, local businesses, and committed citizens --- in the Midwest flood fight.

The stories below are only a small sample of the many preparations being taken by individuals and communities across the Midwest:

If you haven’t taken steps to get prepared for a flood, visit Ready.gov today.

Incident Support Bases, Spring Flood Edition

Author: 

As Flood Safety Awareness Week continues, yesterday, the National Weather Service issued forecasts indicating communities in the Dakotas, Minnesota and other states in the Midwest are at a significant risk for major flooding this spring, and Montana, South Dakota, New Jersey and other states are already dealing with significant floods.

We have written a lot on this blog about what individuals can do to prepare, and how we are working with the entire team to get the word out, but we wanted to take a second and let you know about one of the steps we are taking here at FEMA to be ready – establishing an Incident Support Base in the upper Midwest.

What’s an Incident Support Base?

At all times, FEMA has commodities (like water, food, blankets, cots and generators), at our eight distribution centers that are strategically located throughout the United States. These centers contain millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of thousands of blankets, just to give you some sense of their size.

Often times, when we see the threat of disaster, in the form of flooding, hurricanes or other phenomenon, in anticipation of requests from our state partners, we will send some of our commodities forward from our distribution centers closer to the impacted areas and set up what we call an Incident Support Base (ISB).

FEMA generators are staged for rapid deployment to support emergency facilities and public buildings if needed. FEMA is one part of a team supporting North Carolina's preparations for and response to Hurricane Earl.
Fayetteville, NC, September 3, 2010 -- FEMA generators are staged for rapid deployment to support emergency facilities and public buildings if needed. FEMA is one part of a team supporting North Carolina's preparations for and response to Hurricane Earl.

You may remember last summer, when Hurricane Earl threatened the east coast. We set up two ISBs, one in the Northeast, and one in the Southeast, in case they were needed to support the states’ response.  Here is a video about one of the ISBs we stood up to prepare for Hurricane Earl:



And this week, in anticipation of potential flooding across the Upper Midwest, FEMA has a team on the ground in Minnesota, proactively establishing an Incident Support Base, to further enhance our ability to quickly move needed supplies throughout the Upper Midwest states affected by spring flooding, should they be needed and requested.

The Incident Support Base has already begun receiving supplies this past Monday that includes meals, water, cots, hygiene kits, infant and toddler kits and other items intended to support state requirements. Check out this video from local news.

If the Midwest states request supplies, items from the Incident Support Base will be sent forward to a Federal or State staging area, and ultimately transferred to the state for distribution to survivors. All points of distribution are identified and managed by the local/state emergency managers.

And as we often say, FEMA is not the team, FEMA is part of the team, a team that includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal officials, the faith-based and non-profit communities, the private sector and most importantly the public. Individuals living in the affected areas need to take precautions and to continue to heed the information and warnings coming from their state and local officials.

If you haven’t already, visit www.ready.gov/floodawareness to learn more.

- Eric

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