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Irene Update 9: Entire East Coast Should Prepare

Posted by: Public Affairs

Hurricane Irene is currently making a turn along the East Coast, and forecasts from the National Hurricane Center project the storm could affect an area from Florida to Maine as it moves further north. We are continuing to closely monitor Irene and are in close contact and coordination with all of our state, tribal and territorial partners in the Caribbean and along the East Coast that have already or could possibly experience impacts from this storm.

As we’ve said all week, if you live along the East Coast (even in inland areas), take the storm seriously and make sure you’re taking steps to get prepared at Ready.gov/hurricanes. Hurricane Irene’s future path is still uncertain, and past experience tells us that hurricanes can change directions unexpectedly. (Administrator Fugate talked about the most important steps to get prepared in an interview with CNN this morning.)

Yesterday, we shared some hurricane safety tips, and today, we wanted to make sure you remember an important point:

  • Listen to the direction of local officials, and follow local updates – If local officials give the order to evacuate, do so immediately along your approved evacuation route.

    Your local National Weather Service forecast office has the most up-to-date information about the severe weather watches or warnings in your area. Visit weather.gov (mobile.weather.gov on your phone) for information directly from the National Weather Service.

What We’re Doing
In advance of the storm, our Incident Management Assistance Teams have been deployed to areas in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, in anticipation of further deployment to potential impact areas along the east coast of the U.S.

We’re also pre-staging supplies and commodities along the East Coast to supplement state resources if needed - such as bottled water and meals-ready-to-eat. We’ve set up Incident Support Bases along the East Coast to proactively stage commodities closer to areas potentially affected by severe weather, allowing us to quickly move needed supplies throughout affected states, should they be needed and requested.

For more on the federal family’s actions to respond to and prepare for Irene, check out yesterday’s recap blog post.

Irene Update 8: August 24 Recap

Bill Read, Director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center, provides a briefing to federal and state partners on Hurricane Irene via videoteleconference.
Washington, D.C., August 24, 2011 -- Bill Read, Director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center (on-screen, center), provides a briefing to federal and state partners on Hurricane Irene via videoteleconference.

Through our regional offices in Boston, Mass., Philadelphia, Penn., New York, N.Y., Atlanta, Ga., and our Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico, have been in close contact and coordination with the territories that have been affected, and states that may be impacted.

On Monday, President Obama declared an emergency for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, making available federal resources to support response efforts. In advance of Irene moving through the territories, we deployed teams to both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to coordinate directly with local officials on the ground.

And at the direction of President Obama and DHS Secretary Napolitano, we continue to work with our federal, state, territorial, tribal, and local partners, as well as voluntary organizations, the private sector, and others to aggressively prepare for Hurricane Irene.

The following timeline provides an overview of these and other federal activities, to date, to support these territories, states, families and communities. For the latest updates on our activities, visit the Severe Tropical Weather category on our blog.

Wednesday, August 24

  • Fort Bragg, North Carolina has been designated as an Incident Support Base to support federal operations to respond to Hurricane Irene. The Incident Support Base allows FEMA and federal partners to proactively stage commodities closer to areas potentially affected by severe weather, allowing us to quickly move needed supplies throughout affected states, should they be needed and requested.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has started deploying members of the 249th Engineering Battalion (Prime Power) to Puerto Rico to assist with restoring power to the island.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Hurricane Center is monitoring Hurricane Irene and flying jet surveillance missions to provide updated forecasts.
  • The National Guard Bureau has personnel on the ground in Puerto Rico providing support for clearing roads and debris, transporting equipment, communications, urban search and rescue efforts, and public safety and security needs.
  • U.S. NORTHCOM has deployed staff to Puerto Rico to help provide support and coordinate response efforts.
  • U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Coast Guard is currently conducting port and air assessments in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help re-open ports as soon as possible.
  • The American Red Cross is sending volunteers to North Carolina and South Carolina, and moving feeding trucks and communications equipment to east coast states. Local chapters are also getting ready for sheltering efforts.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing recommendations for residents in states that might be affected by Hurricane Irene to minimize the potential for foodborne illnesses in the event of power outages, flooding, and other problems that could be associated with the storm. Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at www.AskKaren.gov. "Ask Karen" live chat services are available Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET.
  • FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino and National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read hold a conference call with congressional stakeholders to discuss response operations, the latest storm developments and preparations.

See yesterday's blog post for a recap of earlier federal activities.


A FEMA logistics employee moves MRE's to get ready to load onto a trailer at the Atlanta Distribution Center in preparations for Hurricane Irene.
Atlanta, GA, August 23, 2011 -- A FEMA logistics employee moves meals ready to eat to get ready to load onto a trailer at the Atlanta Distribution Center in preparations for Hurricane Irene. The supplies will be moved to an Incident Support Base in North Carolina based on the storm's forecast track.

Irene Update 7: Working Closely with Officials in Puerto Rico


Justo Hernandez briefs the media after Hurricane Irene.
San Juan, PR, August 24, 2011 -- Justo Hernandez, federal coordinating officer, briefs the media regarding FEMA's support of local officials after Hurricane Irene.

While much of the media attention is on Hurricane Irene's potential impacts along the East Coast of the U.S., FEMA is continuing to work closely with state and local officials in Puerto Rico - a U.S. territory that's already been affected by this hurricane. On Monday, Irene passed right over the island, bringing torrential rains and high winds, ultimately causing widespread power and water outages across the island. Shortly after, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, making additional federal resources available to supplement commonwealth and local response efforts.

I'd like to personally commend the efforts of first responders in the affected area, who are still working tirelessly to ensure the immediate needs of those affected are being met. They're an important part of the team, and I'm thankful for the strong relationship FEMA has with the first responder community in Puerto Rico.

We've already received a request to conduct preliminary damage assessments in the affected municipalities - and the weather conditions will allow us to do these assessments starting tomorrow. The teams will be looking for damage for both public assistance (which provides assistance to local government and private non-profit groups) and individual assistance (which provides assistance to affected individuals and business owners).

Our goal right now in Puerto Rico is to conduct these damage assessments as quickly as possible so we can help the governor determine whether the scope of the damages is beyond what the commonwealth is capable of handling, and if additional federal assistance is needed.

So for those along the East Coast of the U.S., I urge you to get prepared for Irene. The storm seems to be building strength as it moves further north, and we in Puerto Rico can attest to the importance of being prepared.

SBA Blog: Small Businesses Should Take Steps to Be Prepared

Author: 

Editor's note: This was originally posted by Karen Mills on the "Open For Business" blog from the Small Business Administration

Sometimes disasters strike without warning, such as earthquakes, including the one millions of Americans felt today on the East Coast. Other times, we have a few days to prepare, like we have right now with Hurricane Irene approaching the Carolinas. In the case of any natural or man-made disaster, small business owners should have a disaster preparedness plan in place and ready to go.

It’s often difficult for small business owners – some of the busiest people in America – to look beyond the most pressing, immediate business concerns. But an “ounce of prevention” today could mean the difference in whether a business is able to survive a disaster and quickly return to regular operations.

A few quick tips:

  • Make and keep an extra set of copies of important documents, such as insurance policies and financial records.
  • Check to make sure your employee and customer contact information is up-to-date and easy to access.
  • Be prepared to provide regular communications in anticipation of, during, and after a disaster to all of your stakeholders.

Most of all, we encourage everyone in the community to listen to local public officials. If they say to close up shop or evacuate, don’t hesitate.

In addition, I encourage small business owners throughout the country to check out federal resources and tips at www.ready.gov/business as well as a business readiness evaluation tool from the American Red Cross available for free at www.readyrating.org.

We’ve had many major natural disasters in the U.S. this year: floods, tornadoes, droughts, fires, earthquakes, and, now, hurricanes. The chances of a small business surviving a disaster is largely dependent on how prepared they are.

And make no mistake. After a major disaster strikes, the SBA will be there. We will activate our on-call reservists and start providing low-interest loans to homeowners, renters, businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

While we all hope that Hurricane Irene weakens over the coming days, we must remain vigilant. And we know that another hurricane – or another unexpected threat – could be just around the corner. There is no time like the present to ensure that America’s small business owners are ready for whatever comes their way.

Irene Update 6: A Few Safety Tips as Irene Continues its Approach

As Hurricane Irene continues to move through the Atlantic, we continue to be in close contact and coordination with all of our state and territorial partners in the Caribbean and along the East Coast that have already or could possibly experience impacts from this storm.  At this time, Hurricane Irene is a category three hurricane, according to the Staffir-Simpson scale, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph.

What You Can Do

Yesterday, we emphasized that those along the East Coast should get prepared since Irene’s future path is uncertain. As Irene continues its approach toward the continental U.S., here are a few reminders:

  • Stay informed of the latest forecast – the National Hurricane Center continues to be the official source for Hurricane Irene forecasts and updates, which you can find at www.hurricanes.gov or on your phone at http://hurricanes.gov/mobile. If the storm approaches your community, your local National Weather Service forecast office is the best place to find any severe weather watches/warnings for your area (www.weather.gov or on your phone at http://mobile.weather.gov).
  • Know your evacuation plan – contact your local emergency management office to find out if you live in an evacuation zone and what the proper route would be if evacuation orders are given by local officials.
  • Have your emergency kit ready – make sure your emergency kit is capable of sustaining your family members (including pets) for at least 72 hours. Remember to include important documents, prescription medications, and other essentials for children and pets.
  • Review and practice your family’s emergency plan – make sure family members know how they will get in touch after a disaster, or where safe meeting locations are both in town and out-of-town. For more tips on making your family’s emergency plan, visit Ready.gov.

What We’re Doing

In advance preparation for the storm, FEMA National Incident Management Assistance Teams have been deployed to staging areas in Georgia and Virginia, in anticipation of further deployment to potential impact areas along the east coast of the U.S.

Earlier this week, Irene passed over Puerto Rico, causing widespread power and water outages for many on the island – which should act as an important reminder for those along the East Coast to get prepared. We’re continuing to work with commonwealth and local officials to conduct joint preliminary damage assessments, as weather permits, to help the governor determine whether additional federal assistance is needed.

Irene Update 5: August 23 Recap

Through our regional offices in Boston, Mass., Philadelphia, Penn., New York, N.Y., Atlanta, Ga., and our Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico, have been in close contact and coordination with the territories that have been affected, and states that may be impacted.

Last night, President Obama declared an emergency for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, making available federal resources to support response efforts. In advance of Irene moving through the territories, we deployed teams to both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to coordinate directly with local officials on the ground.

And at the direction of President Obama and DHS Secretary Napolitano, we continue to work with our federal, state, territorial, tribal, and local partners, as well as voluntary organizations, the private sector, and others to aggressively prepare for Hurricane Irene.

The following timeline provides an overview of these and other federal activities, to date, to support these territories, states, families and communities. For the latest updates on our activities, visit the Severe Tropical Weather category on our blog.

Tuesday, August 23

  • As part of a coordination call led by President Obama on the Virginia earthquake, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate also briefed the President on ongoing activities in response to Hurricane Irene, including FEMA’s support for territorial response activities in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, as well as FEMA’s coordination of preparation efforts with the governors of potentially impacted states.
  • FEMA National Incident Management Assistance Teams have been deployed to staging areas in Georgia and Pennsylvania, in anticipation of further deployment to potential impact areas along the east coast of the U.S.
  • FEMA, and its federal partners, conduct a video-teleconference with the governors of the states and territories that already have, or could be impacted by the severe weather.
  • FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read hold a conference call with congressional stakeholders to discuss response operations, the latest storm developments and preparations.

See yesterday's blog post for a recap of earlier federal activities.

Irene Update 4: Those Along East Coast Should Be Ready

Editor's Note: A list of emergency management agencies along the East Coast is below.  For our latest update on Irene, visit the Severe Tropical Weather category on the blog.
 

We’re continuing to closely monitor Hurricane Irene through our regional offices in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Atlanta. As the storm continues through the Caribbean, current forecasts from the National Hurricane Center project Irene may continue to strengthen and could make landfall anywhere along the East Coast.

We continue to be in constant contact and coordination with all of our state and territorial partners in the Caribbean and along the East Coast that have already or could possibly experience impacts from this storm. Yesterday, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, making available federal support to protect lives and property for all 78 municipalities there.

While the future path of Irene is uncertain, it’s important that those along the East Coast take steps to get prepared and stay informed as Irene approaches. Ready.gov/hurricanes has tips for getting prepared, and hurricanes.gov is the place for the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

In an Associated Press story this morning, local officials along the east coast shared their concern as they make preparations for Irene. Here are some of their quotes from the full story:
 

"In terms of where it's going to go, there is still a pretty high level of uncertainty," said Wallace Hogsett, a National Hurricane Center meteorologist. "It's a very difficult forecast in terms of when [hurricane Irene] is going to turn northward."

"We want to make sure Floridians are paying attention," said Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, who met Monday with the governor. "We are at the height of the hurricane season right now. If it's not Hurricane Irene, it could be the follow-up storm that impacts us."

"This is potentially a very serious hurricane," longtime Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said. He led Charleston's recovery from the massive destruction of Hurricane Hugo's 135 mph winds and waves back in 1989.

"We must prepare for the worst and hope for the best," said Joe Martinez, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission.

Here’s a list of resources for state emergency management websites and social media accounts along the east coast:

Irene Update 3: August 22 Recap

Caribbean Area Division Director, Alejandro De La Campa provides the press with information about FEMA ongoing activities in support of the Puerto Rico government response operations to Tropical Storm Irene.
San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 21, 2011 -- Caribbean Area Division Director, Alejandro De La Campa provides the press with information about FEMA's ongoing activities in support of the Puerto Rico government response operations to Hurricane Irene.

At the direction of President Obama and DHS Secretary Napolitano, we continue to work with our federal, state, territorial, tribal, and local partners, as well as voluntary organizations, the private sector, and others to aggressively prepare as hurricane Irene approaches the continental U.S.  In advance of Irene moving through the territories, the federal government had taken proactive steps to support local officials and citizens.

The following timeline provides an overview of these and other federal activities, to date, to support these affected territories, states, families and communities.  For the latest updates on our activities, visit the Severe Tropical Weather category on our blog.

Recap for Monday, August 22:

  • FEMA, through its regional office in New York, and its Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico, remains in constant contact and coordination with the governors and emergency management teams from the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Puerto Rico, as they continue response efforts and begin to assess damages from the storm.
  • FEMA, through its regional office in Atlanta, GA, is in contact with emergency management officials in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and other states that could be impacted by Irene later in the week, to identify any needs and potential shortfalls.
  • FEMA proactively deploys its National Incident Management Team to North Carolina in anticipation of any potential landfall to the southeastern U.S.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan personnel conduct port assessments and aids to navigation verification in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to reopen the ports as soon as possible.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s high-altitude research aircraft fly surveillance missions to assess the storm’s track.
  • FEMA’s Regional Response Coordination Center in New York activates to ensure that coordination of federal resources can be expedited and mobilized, should there be a request for federal assistance.
  • FEMA activates its National Response Coordination Center to 24-hour operations, to ensure federal coordination and resources are available to support the Regional Response Coordination Center and to monitor current storm conditions.


Sunday, August 21:
 

  • FEMA’s regional office in New York and its Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico continue their constant contact and coordination with the U.S. Virgin Islands Territory Emergency Management Agency and the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency.
  • Both the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico activate their emergency operations centers.
  • FEMA embeds staff, called liaison officers, in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico emergency operations centers work directly with territory and local officials.
  • FEMA encourages residents in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to closely monitor weather conditions and listen to the direction of local and territory officials.
  • At all times, FEMA maintains commodities, including millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of thousands of blankets, strategically located at distribution centers throughout the United States and its territories. In Puerto Rico, for example, FEMA has more than 200,000 liters of water, more than 400,000 meals, and more than 1,400 cots and blankets, that could be used, if needed, to help with response and recovery efforts.

Saturday, August 20

  • FEMA proactively deploys Incident Management Assistance Teams to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, to coordinate with territory and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting potential disaster response and recovery.
     

Friday, August 19

  • FEMA begins closely monitoring the large tropical wave that eventually strengthens into Hurricane Irene.

Irene Update 2: Get Prepared

Editor's note: Video added at 1:52 p.m. EDT.



Last night, hurricane Irene passed over Puerto Rico, bringing heavy rains and high winds to the island. Our regional office in New York and our Caribbean Area Office remain in constant contact and coordination with the U.S. Virgin Islands Territory Emergency Management Agency and the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency, as Irene continues to move northwest this afternoon. A tropical storm warning is still in effect for Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, so if you’re in the affected area, continue to follow the direction of local officials.

We currently have liaison officers and Incident Management Assistance Teams in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico emergency operations centers, working with territory and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting potential disaster response and recovery.

While it’s still too early to tell how or where Irene may impact the continental U.S., it’s important that those in the Southeast, and especially those in coastal areas, take steps to get prepared. Visit Ready.gov/hurricanes for information on getting your home and family prepared, or visit m.fema.gov for hurricane safety tips on the go.


And for the latest forecasts from the National Hurricane Center on hurricane Irene, visit hurricanes.gov or hurricanes.gov/mobile on your smartphone. We will continue to provide updates about our role under the Severe Tropical Weather category on this blog.

(Para información sobre preparación en español, visite Listo.gov)

Tomorrow – Ask Craig Your Questions About Hurricane Preparedness

It’s already been an active hurricane season and our busiest months are yet to come. While we are lucky that so far we have not had any major hurricanes threaten the U.S., as Administrator Fugate has said, it’s only a matter of time before that luck runs out. A major hurricane making landfall in the U.S. is not a matter of if, but when and we all need to do our part to be prepared. And tomorrow, you’ll get the chance to ask Craig how.

Join Administrator Fugate and the Weather Channel’s Hurricane Expert, Dr. Rick Knabb, tomorrow (Wed, Aug 17) at noon for a Lunchtime Live Chat with the Weather Channel on Hurricane Preparedness.

The chat will last an hour and it’s easy to participate. So bring your all burning questions about preparedness and join us tomorrow from 12:00-1:00 pm eastern. Visit the Weather Channel for more information on the Lunchtime Live Chat. And don’t forget to visit www.ready.gov/hurricanes to learn more about what you can do to be prepared for hurricanes and other disasters.

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