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Severe weather continues across U.S.: Are you prepared?

A strong line of severe storms, tornadoes and heavy rains are continuing to affect much of the U.S., from Illinois to Arkansas.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and communities struck by the deadly tornadoes, severe storms and flooding that swept through areas of the Midwest last night including Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee and face more severe storms forecasted for this week.

Through our regional offices in Kansas City, Mo., Chicago, Ill. and Denton, Texas we have been in constant contact and coordination with the state’s emergency management teams in Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee to ensure they have the support they need.

There are currently no requests for federal assistance as a result of the yesterday’s storms, but FEMA will continue to stay in constant communication with the states and stands ready to support, if needed.  (Federal disaster assistance is available to residents of Atoka County in Oklahoma, and 18 counties in North Carolina resulting from damage of tornadoes and severe storms earlier this month.)

If you are in the storm’s path and may be affected, it’s important to follow the instructions of state and local officials, and listen to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information. If authorities order an evacuation, leave immediately, follow evacuation routes announced by local officials, and stay away from river banks and streams.

Here are some other tips on staying safe during a flood, tornado, or thunderstorm.  You can find more safety and preparedness tips on Ready.gov or on our mobile site (m.fema.gov).

Floods

  • Driving through a flooded area can be extremely hazardous. Almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles. When in your car, look out for flooding in low lying areas, at bridges, and at highway dips. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle.  Remember – turn around, don’t drown.
  • Familiarize yourself with flood alerts:
    • 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. 

Tornadoes

  • If a tornado is possible in your area, go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Do not open windows.
  • Familiarize yourself with tornado terminology:
    • Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
    • Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Thunderstorms

  • Thunderstorms can bring heavy rains, winds, and lightning.  If you hear thunder, seek shelter indoors.  Stay away from doors and windows, and move to an interior room or basement.
  • Become familiar with thunderstorm terminology:
    • Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
    • Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

Monitoring Severe Weather in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma & Texas

Our thoughts are with the families and communities in the St. Louis area, who were impacted by the severe storms that swept through the region on Friday night, and the severe weather continues today. A strong and long-lasting spring storm continues to bring rain into the region, causing flash flood warnings for parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and severe weather, including Tornados, to parts of Texas.

Through our regional offices in Kansas City, MO and Denton, TX, we are continuing to closely monitor conditions as the severe storms and tornadoes continue. Since the initial storms struck, we have been in close contact and coordination with the Missouri Emergency Management Agency, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, as well as the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

We commend the heroic efforts of the state and local officials and voluntary agencies that have been working around the clock to respond to the storms and protect the affected residents and communities. As an example, check out these photos from the American Red Cross showing how they’re helping disaster survivors.

When natural disasters strike, including severe storms and tornadoes, the first responders are local emergency and public works personnel, volunteers, humanitarian organizations (like the Red Cross), and numerous private interest groups who provide emergency assistance required to protect the public's health and safety and to meet immediate human needs. (See this blog post about FEMA’s role in severe storms and tornadoes.)

If you haven’t already, now is the time to get prepared for tornadoes, floods and other disasters. Visit http://www.ready.gov/ to learn more.

North Carolina: Disaster Recovery Centers

Working with our partners in North Carolina, we opened the first Disaster Recovery Centers after the severe storms struck the state and we plan to open more soon in other counties.

What is a Disaster Recovery Center you ask?  Good question.

We often set up Disaster Recovery Centers to help disaster survivors navigate the federal assistance process.  But an important thing to know is that survivors don’t need to come to the DRC to register, but anyone looking for face to face assistance is welcome to stop by.

If a disaster survivor’s county has been declared, they can also apply for assistance by:

To give you an idea of what to expect at a Disaster Recovery Center, we wanted to pull this video out of the archives.  It’s from 2009 after an earthquake and tsunami struck American Samoa.  In the video, Casey Deshong (FEMA External Affairs) gives a tour of a DRC in American Samoa and talks about the different types of assistance provided:



Here are some other things you should know:

Individual assistance can be provided to eligible individuals and households who are uninsured, or under-insured, and suffered losses due to disaster damage.
It’s important to remember that by law, the amount of individual assistance a person or household can receive is capped (just over $30,000 for this year), and may not cover losses to the extent that homeowner’s policy would. Flood insurance is another way you can protect against the damaging financial effects of a disaster, which is why we are often encouraging families to talk to their insurance agent about protecting your home or business.
This assistance is also intended to support only necessary and serious needs that resulted from the disaster. The best way to make sure you and your family are protected against the devastating impacts of flooding is to have flood insurance.

For additional updates and recovery information, please continue to visit the NC disaster page.

News of the Day: Quick-Thinking Store Manager Saves Lives in Tornado

Author: 

I’ve blogged several times about the importance of the private sector in helping our communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. While these past blog posts have focused on the role of the private sector as a valuable member of the emergency management team, I wanted to highlight one especially heroic story that came out of the deadly tornadoes that just hit North Carolina and other states over the past few days.

During the series of deadly tornadoes and severe storms, a manager at a home improvement store in Sanford, North Carolina guided approximately 100 people (employees and customers) to safety just before a tornado bore down on the store.

Read about how the manager was able to act quickly and put the company’s safety plan into action (his heroic actions also merited a call from President Obama). (Stories courtesy of WCNC.)

Every day across the nation there are other essential contributions from the private sector and potential heroes like this manager, who work hard to keep their peers, stores and customers safe. And whether you’re a business owner or employee, check out Ready.gov/business for information on minimizing the impact of disasters and keeping employees (and potentially, your customers) safe in case an emergency occurs.

- Dan

Aftermath of Severe Southern Storms – Supporting our State and Local Partners

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and communities struck by the deadly series of tornadoes and severe storms that swept through many of our southern and Midwestern states late last week and over the weekend. FEMA, through our regional offices in Denton, Texas and Atlanta has been closely monitoring the storms and their aftermath, and has been in constant contact with the impacted states. Yesterday, President Obama spoke with Governor Bentley of Alabama and Governor Perdue of North Carolina to let them know that the entire federal government, through FEMA, stands ready to support in their recovery efforts as needed.

Over the weekend we deployed a FEMA representative to the North Carolina emergency operations center to help the state with coordination and other needs. And at the requests of the governors of the respective states, FEMA has deployed teams to North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi to conduct joint preliminary damage assessments with other state and local personnel. These assessments identify the damages in impacted counties and to help the governor determine if additional federal support will be requested. As of this morning, we now have 12 teams on the ground in North Carolina, one team in Alabama and three teams in Mississippi.

And at the request of the governor of Oklahoma, we also had a team on the ground in the state over the weekend to partner with state and local personnel to assess the damage. Those assessments have been completed and the state will now review the findings to determine whether or not to seek federal assistance.

Already in North Carolina, we have seen the team that we so often talking about coming together to help the community recovery, whether it’s volunteers or neighbor helping neighbor. As the New York Times reported this morning:

Around the parts of the Southern states that were hardest hit, volunteers began organizing food drives and fund-raisers. Many people were connecting through Facebook and Twitter, and others were simply showing up to see how they might help.

In Sanford, the Salvation Army thrift store opened its doors at 3 p.m. and two hours later had already accepted about 400 bags of clothes and household goods, said Derek Oley, 29, the manager. They will start supplying food to people Monday.

“This community is just so awesome right now,” Mr. Oley said. “People are just coming out from everywhere to help out.”

And remember – as these storms proved once again – severe weather can strike anytime, anywhere. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get prepared for tornadoes and other disasters on Ready.gov.

Federal Assistance in Severe Storms and Tornadoes: Our Role

The spring season is upon us, which often brings volatile, fast-moving weather systems to many parts of the country (as we’ve already seen). We’ve done several blog posts about our role in winter weather and spring flooding, so we wanted to give the basics of FEMA’s role in severe storms and tornadoes.

The bottom line is that – as with all disasters – FEMA is only a part of the emergency management team that helps the nation prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. This team includes federal, state, local and tribal officials, the faith-based and non-profit communities, the private sector and - most importantly – the public.

Just after a storm or tornado
When a severe storm or tornado hits, the first responders are local emergency and public works personnel, volunteers, humanitarian organizations, and numerous private interest groups who provide emergency assistance required to protect the public's health and safety and to meet immediate human needs.

In some cases, the damage to the community and needs of residents overwhelms the resources of state, territory, tribal, local government, and voluntary agencies. It’s these instances where a governor may request a major disaster declaration from the president to provide supplemental federal disaster assistance.



When does a governor make a request?
Sometimes the governor makes a request soon after the storm ends, and in other cases, a governor may wait in order to get a full assessment of the damage, before requesting a disaster declaration.

A major disaster declaration provides a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work.

To explain what we mean by “assistance”, here’s an excerpt from one of our previous blog posts on the disaster declaration process:

A major disaster declaration request will also include a request for assistance under one or two broad categories of assistance, which we refer to as public assistance (PA) and individual assistance (IA). Public assistance is financial assistance for repairing public infrastructure, like roads, schools, fire stations, etc.

Individual assistance can be provided to eligible individuals and households who are uninsured, or under-insured, and suffered losses due to disaster damage. It’s important to remember that by law, the amount of individual assistance a person or household can receive is capped (just over $30,000 for this year), and may not cover losses to the extent that a flood insurance policy would, which is why we are often encouraging families to purchase insurance. This assistance is also intended to support only necessary and serious needs that resulted from the disaster. The best way to make sure you and your family are protected against the devastating impacts of flooding is to have flood insurance.

FEMA is also able to provide assistance by serving as a coordinator for the federal agencies that can help support response and recovery efforts. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses its engineering and contracting capabilities to support FEMA and other federal, state and local government agencies in a wide variety of missions during natural and man-made disasters. Learn more here.

While we can’t fully predict when and where severe storms and tornadoes will occur, the entire emergency management team – a team that includes the public – can take steps now to reduce their impact. Visit Ready.gov for an outline on how to get prepared for any disaster.

Other links
How to build a safe room in your home or small business

Severe Weather Update: Florida severe storms and tornadoes

A series of severe storms and tornadoes are moving through central and southwest Florida.  Our regional office in Atlanta continues to be in constant contact with Florida’s Emergency Operations Center, as well as our partners at the National Weather Service.

When natural disasters, such as severe storms and tornadoes, strike the first responders are local emergency and public works personnel, volunteers, humanitarian organizations, and numerous private interest groups who provide emergency assistance required to protect the public's health and safety and to meet immediate human needs.  We stand ready to support State and local responders if Federal assistance is needed.

If you are in the path of the storm, seek shelter immediately.  Monitor your local forecast on your NOAA severe weather radio or through local news, and be sure to follow the direction of local officials.


Other links
- Get prepared for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes at Ready.gov

Deadly Midwest storm ushers in 2011

Severe weather in the middle of the U.S. brought in the New Year with an exclamation point.  For residents in Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, and parts of Illinois, a severe weather system moved through the area, bringing deadly storms and tornadoes.  Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and communities of those in Arkansas and Missouri who lost their lives during the storms.

We are in close coordination with our state and local partners, as well as volunteer and faith-based organizations, as they work with first responders to meet the immediate needs of survivors.  No federal assistance has been requested at this time, but our regional watch centers are closely monitoring the situation as damage assessments continue. Once assessments of the levels of damage are done, state and local officials can determine if their recovery needs are beyond their own capabilities and resources and if federal aid is needed.

The Midwest and South weren’t the only states experiencing severe weather this weekend – Californians are getting hit with another round of wet weather as they continue to recover from the Christmas flooding and mudslides. Through our regional office in Oakland, we also remain in close contact with California Emergency Management officials as they deal with their latest bout of storms.

Make sure you’re prepared for severe weather by having an emergency kit, making an emergency plan, and being informed of local conditions.  Visit Ready.gov to get prepared today.

If you’ve experienced severe weather lately, leave a comment as let us know how being prepared helped to ease the stress of the situation.

- Rachel

A few useful links from our state partners:

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