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Preparing for Tropical Storm Karen and Central U.S. Severe Weather

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nrcc staff work at desksOctober 4, 2013 - Staff work in FEMA's National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C. in response to Tropical Storm Karen.

FEMA is preparing and coordinating with our partners for Tropical Storm Karen and the severe weather threat for the Central U.S. We’re encouraging those in the Gulf Coast and Central U.S. states to take time to make sure they’re getting prepared.  Here are some steps you can take today to prepare for any severe weather threat, including tropical storms, damaging winds, and severe thunderstorms:

  • Finish reviewing your family’s emergency plan (include your kids, too).  Plan for scenarios such as how you’d stay in touch during a storm, where you could meet up in the event of an emergency, and who your out of town contact is, should communications become difficult in the impacted areas.
  • Check on your family’s emergency supplies.  Basic supplies include:
    • battery-powered radio
    • flashlight
    • extra batteries
    • cell phone charger
    • medicines
    • non-perishable food
    • first aid supplies.

      red cross emergency kit photoA Red Cross "ready to go" preparedness kit showing the bag and it's contents. Red Cross photograph.
  • Stay up-to-date with the latest forecast in your area by monitoring local radio and TV reports. It’s also important to note that local officials may send out Wireless Emergency Alerts to provide brief, critical instructions to warn about imminent threats like severe weather. If you receive an alert like the one below, please follow the instructions in the message.

    emergency alert photo

    During all phases of a storm, continue to listen and follow the instructions of local officials. If Tropical Storm Karen brings significant rainfall to your area, follow local safety instructions and stay away from flooded roads – remember, Turn Around Don’t Drown. Follow ongoing updates from trusted emergency management accounts on social media, visit our Social Hub on your mobile device and computer
  • Download the FEMA app.  It’s packed with tips on how to stay safe before, during, and after a tropical storm.  You can also use it to track what’s in your family’s emergency supply kit, as well as store your family’s emergency meeting locations.

    google play store

    apple app store logo

    blackberry app world

Finally, here is an update on what FEMA is doing to prepare for the impacts of Tropical Storm Karen:

  • Today, FEMA activated the National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C., a multi-agency coordination center that provides overall coordination of the federal response to natural disasters and emergencies, to support state requests for assistance from Gulf Coast and Southern states.  Regional response coordination centers in Atlanta, Ga. and Denton, Texas are also activated.
  • FEMA has begun to recall currently-furloughed employees necessary to serve functions of the agency that protect life and property as they prepare for potential landfall of Tropical Storm Karen, and for severe weather in the central U.S. based on applicable legal requirements and consistent with its contingency plan.
  • FEMA Regional Administrators for Regions IV and VI have been in touch with emergency management partners in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

    weather service official on phoneOctober 4, 2013 - An official at the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee, FL speaks with emergency management partners. (Courtesy of @NWSTallahassee on Twitter)
     
  • FEMA has recalled and deployed liaisons to emergency operations centers in each of these states to coordinate with local officials, should support be requested, or needed.
  • Today, three FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT), recalled from furlough, are deploying to the potentially impacted areas to assist with the coordination of planning and response operations.

We’ll continue to provide updates as needed.

Forkston Township, Pennsylvania Gets its Bridge Back

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A bridge is one of those things that can so easily be taken for granted. Even one that we may rely on to cut our day-to-day work commute in half, or allows us more frequent trips to the grocery store, after a while, can seem like an assumed part of life. But when these critical conduits are lost, as was the case when Hurricane Irene devastated parts of Forkston, a township near the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, the significance of these vital crossings is more fully realized.          

Recovery from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee is still in process here in Pennsylvania, where residents of Forkston just learned that FEMA has approved nearly $7 million in federal Public Assistance funding for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to reconstruct a bridge and nearby roadside that was at the heart of the community until Irene devastated it in late August 2011.

Few of us will soon forget how, even two weeks after Irene, many Forkston residents could not get to their homes because the bridge was gone. What’s more, some residents who were at home when Irene hit were stranded, cut off from critical resources. Some of the trapped residents made dramatic efforts to cross the Mahoopany Creek so they could access food and other necessary items. At one point, individuals even used ropes to inch across the water. They strung two ropes across the creek at different levels and shimmied, placing their feet on the lower rope while gripping the higher rope with their hands. Two of those ropes are visible in this photo (below) of people walking along what was left of Windy Valley Road along Mahoopany Creek.    

residents look over damaged bridge

CAPTION: The remains of Windy Valley Road, along the Mehoopany Creek in Forkston after Hurricane Irene. Stranded residents extended two ropes across the creek at different levels to shimmy across the creek for supplies. Photo by Jake Danna Stevens (Photo courtesy of the Scranton Times Tribune)

A gravel crossing was installed to pinch-hit as a means of passage until a more substantial structure could be built. But two days later, Tropical Storm Lee hit. High velocity floodwaters, fueled by a swollen Susquehanna River, washed the hardscrabble expanse away.

temporary gravel bridge

CAPTION: PennDot installed a rough-hewn gravel crossing over Mahoopany Creek on State Route 3001 in Forkston Township, Pa. after Hurricane Irene destroyed the original bridge that stood there. Two days later, Tropical Storm Lee washed it out. Photo by FEMA/Liz Roll

In December 2011, $2.4 million in federal funding was obligated to PennDOT to restore the bridge in its original location on State Route 3001. The project included removal of the collapsed bridge and placement of a temporary “Acrow Panel Bridge” in the vacant spot. Commonwealth-owned asphalt road, guiderails, shoulder and road embankments were also included in the project.

temporary bridge in forkston

CAPTION: A temporary bridge now stands over Mahoopany Creek on State Route 3001 in Forkston Township, Pa. Nearly $7 million in federal PA funding was approved in December to replace the temporary bridge with a permanent structure. Photo by FEMA/William Lindsey, Jr. 

The temporary bridge was a significant improvement, but in mid-December, FEMA approved $6,924,799 for the Commonwealth to reconstruct the bridge and to rebuild portions of surrounding Windy Valley Road.

FEMA’s share is 75 percent of the total $9,233,065 estimated cost of the reconstruction project.  The remaining 25 percent share of the cost will be paid by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

This kind of project is made possible through FEMA’s Public Assistance program, with close coordination among our state and local counterparts.  FEMA manages the program, approves grants and provides technical assistance to the Commonwealth and applicants. The Commonwealth educates potential applicants, works with FEMA to manage the program and is responsible for implementing and monitoring the grants awarded under the program. Local officials are responsible for identifying damage, providing information necessary for FEMA to approve grants and managing each project funded under the program.

Through Public Assistance, FEMA is able to better the lives of those impacted by disasters like Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. An informative list of Frequently Asked Questions about the program, which is an interesting process, is posted on www.FEMA.gov.  I look forward to continuing to help Pennsylvania recover from these storms and sharing more stories like these in the future.

Getting Gas Pumps Flowing

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We know some residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy are experiencing long lines at gas stations and some states are facing fuel shortages.  At FEMA, and across the federal government, we recognize this problem and we are taking immediate steps to address this in three primary ways.

First, we are working to increase fuel supply so that resources are getting to impacted areas.  Hurricane Sandy disrupted the normal flow of fuel by preventing ships from entering vital ports in the Northeast and creating navigation hazards.                                  

This morning, Secretary Napolitano issued a temporary, blanket waiver of the Jones Act to immediately allow additional oil tankers coming from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports. This will provide more fuel to the region.  The Coast Guard also has re-opened the port of New York to all tug and barge traffic carrying petroleum products.  And Customs and Border Protection are working to ensure air and sea ports in the affected areas are fully staffed and ready to receive passengers and cargo as they return to operation.  In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency has exercised its authority under the Clean Air Act to temporarily waive certain federal gasoline requirements for gas sold and distributed in more than a dozen states.  This waiver will help ensure an adequate supply of fuels in the impacted states.

Second, we are coordinating with states and the private sector to accelerate the distribution of fuel to retail locations.  Due to the storm, some refineries and fuel facilities had to be taken off-line and others reduced operations. The Department of Energy is working with industry partners to ensure that the infrastructure to deliver petroleum is up and running to meet fuel demands.  

Normal operations have already resumed at two major refineries in Delaware and New Jersey, and pipeline companies have restored services to six pipelines servicing New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and north to Maine.  In short, we are working with companies and refineries and infrastructure owners to bring facilities back on line, increase production, and get more fuel flowing.

Finally, we are partnering with major utilities and the private sector to restore power so that gas stations that do have fuel in their tanks are able to get the pumps working again. President Obama has established a national power restoration working group to cut through the red tape, increase federal, state, tribal, local and private sector coordination and restore power to people as quickly as possible. 

Yesterday more than 60 power restoration vehicles and crews from private utility companies were airlifted from California to New York to assist with restoration.  The federal government also has provided hundreds of generators to help critical infrastructure sites and fuel stations operate until full power is restored.  Fuel points of distribution locations also are being identified and will be established in hard hit areas to accelerate fuel distribution.

It will take some time for our nation’s fuel supply chain to get back to full capacity.  But we are taking immediate steps in the short term to address the problem and fuel is now flowing into impacted areas.

In the News: From Survivor to Survivor - Managing the stress after a disaster

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(The views expressed in the CNN story do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.)

With the great amount of devastation Sandy has brought upon states along the East Coast, I wanted to take a moment to share an article on CNN.com from Hurricane Katrina and Joplin survivors who felt the way many disaster survivors may feel at this point in time. Three days after Sandy’s landfall, millions of people remain without power and their homes and lives as they knew it, have completely changed.

Here’s an excerpt from storm survivors sharing their experiences and giving advice on how to move forward after experiencing a disaster:

Devastation is devastation, whether a hurricane rips up your home or a tornado takes the person you love most in the world. It's loss, shock and confusion. It's anger and sadness and resentment. It's being flustered like you've never been flustered before.

But it's going to be OK: Take it from the people who survived Hurricane Katrina and the Missourians from Joplin whose town was leveled by the worst tornado in U.S. history.

            They want Sandy survivors to know a few things:

You're probably on autopilot right now. You're moving through it. Stand in the ruins of the life you had before the disaster. Understand that was before. The after is when you're good and ready.

Hours will still go by though. Days will happen. You might not remember to eat because you're filling out paperwork and talking to insurance operators. You will get put on hold.

            Your life will feel forever on hold.

At some point, when you think you're handling it, you will stumble on something that reminds you of that old life, maybe it's a thing or it's a memory. Maybe this will happen when you finally get the sleep you've gone without since the disaster. You're going to feel really, really awful again for awhile.

Eileen Romero, Hurricane Katrina Survivor, “Understand that the life you had before something like this isn't coming back, and that's not always a bad thing. Discover and make yourself anew."

Read the rest of the story from CNN.

As we continue to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we remain committed to bringing the resources of the federal family together to support disaster survivors. We are and will continue to work side by side in close coordination with state, local and tribal emergency management officials, voluntary and faith-based communities, and private sector to support response and recovery efforts in affected states.

Sandy update 4: Staying safe & how to help

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Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. While the worst of the weather is beyond some areas on the East Coast, Sandy remains a very large storm system that continues to pose life-threatening hazards for coastal and inland areas including high winds, heavy rains, dangerous storm surge and flash flooding, and snow and cold weather hazards in some areas.

Some important safety reminders if you’re in an area that has been, or is still being, impacted by this storm:

  • Continue to listen to your local officials – If you evacuated and are returning home, make sure local officials have deemed the area safe to return to.  If Sandy is still impacting your area and local officials give the order to evacuate, do so immediately.  
  • Stay off the roads - Emergency workers may be assisting people in flooded areas or cleaning up debris. You can help them by staying off the roads and out of the way.
  • If your power is out, safely use a generator or candles - Never use a generator inside a home, basement, shed or garage even if doors and windows are open. Keep generators outside and far away from windows, doors and vents. Read both the label on your generator and the owner's manual and follow the instructions.  If using candles, please use caution. If possible, use flashlights instead. If you must use candles, do not burn them on or near anything that can catch fire.
  • Avoid downed power or utility lines - They may be live with deadly voltage.  Stay away and report them immediately to your power or utility company.
  • Don’t drive or walk through flood waters – It only takes a small amount of water to move people or vehicles. If you encounter a flooded roadway, don’t attempt to pass through water – turn around, don’t drown.  And if your home has flood water inside or around it, don’t walk or wade in it.  The water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline or raw sewage.

How to help those affected by Sandy

We’ve had a number of questions come in on our Facebook and Twitter accounts about how to help those who have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  A few pointers to remember:

  • Cash is the most efficient method of donating – Cash offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover.
  • Volunteer or donate through a trusted organization – At the national level, many voluntary, faith-based and community-based organizations are active in disasters, and are trusted ways to donate to disaster survivors. In addition to the national members, each state has its own list of voluntary organizations active in disasters.

Numerous blood drives have been canceled as a result of the storm and the Red Cross has a need for blood donations. To schedule a blood donation or for more information about giving blood or platelets, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Here’s a video from President Obama reminding everyone how we can help those in need after a disaster:

Latest update on FEMA’s activities

Last night, the President declared major disasters for New York and New Jersey, making disaster assistance available to those in the heaviest hit areas affected by the storm.  Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the following counties in New York and New Jersey can begin applying for assistance by registering online or on your phone at www.DisasterAssistance.gov:

  • Declared counties in New York: Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Richmond, Suffolk, & Queens.
  • Declared counties in New Jersey: Atlantic, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean & Union Counties

Those impacted can also apply by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired.

In addition to federal disaster assistance being available in several counties, states and localities and the American Red Cross continue to operate emergency shelters in many states.  You can search for open shelters by visiting the Red Cross website, downloading the FEMA smartphone app, or by texting the word “shelter” and a zip code to 43362 (4FEMA).  For example, if you’re searching for a shelter in the 01234 zip code, you would text Shelter 01234.

Finally, we continue to work closely with our emergency management partners and are embedded with state teams to support response efforts and assess unmet needs. Our priority focus remains on life-saving and life-sustaining activities.  Currently, more than 1,500 FEMA personnel are positioned along the East Coast working to support disaster preparedness and response operations, including search and rescue, situational awareness, communications and logistical support.  Here are some details about our staff’s support:

  • Twenty-eight teams comprised of 294 FEMA Corps members are pre-staged to support Sandy.
  • Seven federal urban search and rescue task forces have been activated and are deploying in the Mid-Atlantic as needed and requested. 
  • Fourteen Incident Management Assistance Teams
  • Twelve liaison officers are positioned in state emergency operations centers along the East Coast supporting preparedness activities and ensure there are no unmet needs. 
  • Ten Disability Integration Advisors supporting emergency management in ten states on current alert and warning, evacuation and sheltering needs and preparing for potential post-storm operations.

Please share these important safety reminders and we hope you’re taking every precaution to stay safe.

Sandy update 2: Tips for getting prepared

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We are closely monitoring Hurricane Sandy and continue to prepare to support potentially affected state and tribal governments.  Forecasts from the National Hurricane Center show a large area may be impacted by high winds, heavy rains, storm surge, and snow.  These hazardous conditions may be compounded by the likelihood of widespread power outages.  

If you or someone you know may be impacted by Hurricane Sandy, here are a few things to do today and tomorrow to get ready:

  • Get some extra cash out at the ATM today. If the power goes out, banks/ATMs may be offline for some time.
  • Make a plan for how you’ll keep your cell phone charged if you lose power for several days. Picking up a solar or hand-crank charger for your phone is a good idea.
  • Take steps to protect your home/business from high winds – cover windows, clean gutters, trim trees.
  • Get to the store today for emergency supplies such as water, nonperishable food, batteries, flashlight, etc.
  • Make sure you have what you need in case the power goes out and cold weather moves in. Double check that you have a safe, warm place you can go, blankets in your home/car, and winter items like snow shovels and rock salt.
  • Employers: make sure your employees are prepared and review your continuity and tele-work plans.
  • More information for your emergency kit

The President has directed Administrator Fugate to ensure that all available federal resources are being brought to bear to support state and local responders in potentially affected areas along the East Coast as they prepare for the severe weather.   To increase coordination between Federal partners, the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) has been activated, a multi-agency center based at FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C.  The NRCC provides overall coordination of the federal response by bringing together federal departments and agencies to assist in the preparations for and response to disasters.  

While we continue busy preparing to support Hurricane Sandy response, so are a collection of voluntary organizations like the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army USA, the Humane Society of the United States, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and other National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters. Check out President Obama's video on how you can support the great work of these organizations.
 
president obama sandy briefing
CAPTION: President Barack Obama receives an update on the ongoing response to Hurricane Sandy during a conference call with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Dr. Rick Knabb, Director of the National Hurricane Center, and John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, in the Oval Office, Oct. 26, 2012. Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, and Richard Reed, Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, are seated at right. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Continue to visit our blog for the latest updates on FEMA’s role in preparing to respond to Hurricane Sandy.
 

Closely Monitoring Hurricane Sandy

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Through our regional offices in Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, we continue to closely monitor Hurricane Sandy as it moves north in the Atlantic Ocean. We remain in close coordination with state and tribal emergency management partners in Florida and the potentially affected southeast, Mid-Atlantic and New England states. Administrator Craig Fugate provided some important reminders earlier today.

"As Hurricane Sandy proceeds closer toward southeast Florida, residents should listen to local officials for updates and follow their instructions. As the storm moves northward, it serves as a reminder that we all need to be prepared for severe weather.  Now is the time to update your family communication plans, check your supplies, and stay informed.  A hurricane isn't a point on a map - it's a big storm and its impact will be felt far from the center. FEMA is in contact with states and tribal governments and stands ready to support their preparedness efforts."

I’d like to emphasize the Administrator’s last point about the size of these storms.  The storm’s future path is still uncertain, but National Weather Service forecasts show that Hurricane Sandy may impact additional states throughout the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast into early next week.  This means millions along the East Coast should closely watch the progression of Hurricane Sandy as it moves northward.  Going into tonight and tomorrow, the Florida Keys, southeast and east-central Florida are expected to experience heavy rainfall and high winds.
 
As Hurricane Sandy moves northward and closer to Florida, we encourage residents to prepare now for tropical storm and hurricane conditions. Here are a few safety tips if you are in the potentially affected area:

  • For the severe weather forecast for your area, listen to your NOAA Weather Radio, local media and forecast reports.
  • Check on the items in your family’s emergency kit - Remember to include items like a flashlight, hand-crank radio, and a solar powered cell phone charger to your emergency kit.  Hurricanes often bring power outages, so be sure your emergency kit can sustain your family for at least 72 hours after the storm.
  • Make a plan for how you will contact friends and family in the event of an emergency.
  • Flooding is often the most significant threat from hurricanes and tropical storms - avoid walking or driving through flooded areas – it only takes six inches of fast-moving flood water to knock over an adult and two feet to move a vehicle. 
  • As always, follow the direction of local officials.  Don’t put yourself at risk, if they give the order to evacuate, do so immediately.

 Visit www.ready.gov/hurricanes for more tips on preparing your home and family for the effects of a hurricane or tropical storm.

Isaac Survivors Go Mobile for Assistance

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If anyone questions the value of smartphone devices, point them to Hurricane Isaac survivors. The disaster has helped us learn how survivors request and access assistance online during times of need. Fortunately, FEMA’s efforts prior to the storm, to put digital preparedness, response and recovery resources in the palms of peoples’ hands, have proven to be invaluable.

From August 31 to September 9, a record number of disaster survivors—primarily from Hurricane Isaac—used DisasterAssistance.gov to apply for assistance, update their information, and check the status of their application online. On September 4 alone, we received 55,752 visits to the site—the greatest volume of single-day traffic to the site since its launch in 2008, far surpassing the previous single-day high of 33,434 visitors from Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011. Also during this timeframe, 86,847 Hurricane Isaac survivors (combined total from web and mobile registrations) applied for assistance on DisasterAssistance.gov, 17,471 of whom applied using their smartphones. In addition, 57,480 status inquiries were made with the new mobile application inquiry feature, rolled-out in August, which gives survivors the ability to use their smartphones to check the status of their disaster assistance application.

DisasterAssistance.gov Hurricane Isaac Stats at a Glance: August 31 - September 9

  • 328,222 total web visits, 49,596 (18%) via a smartphone
  • 86,847 total online applications submitted, 17,471 (20%) via a smartphone
  • 160,637 total application inquiries, 57,480 (36%) via a smartphone

Not only can users submit and check the status of their application on a mobile device, they can also add or update contact information should they move or become displaced, as is common following disasters. On-the-go survivors can also add or update insurance and bank information, as well as find information and referrals on 72 forms of disaster assistance from the 17 federal agencies that participate in DisasterAssistance.gov, which the site makes easier through a new mobile questionnaire.

The questionnaire serves as a tool to help survivors quickly and anonymously get a personalized list of possible assistance. Recently upgraded on both the full and mobile versions of DisasterAssistance.gov, the questionnaire is now dynamic, meaning it tailors recommendations based on how survivors answer questions as they answer them. More than 8,500 Isaac survivors have used the questionnaire, which also enables users to sort, tag, and find more information on specific forms of assistance, as well as to print and email their results.

The mobile outreach effort is part of a much larger, ongoing initiative to simplify the process of identifying and applying for disaster assistance for survivors using DisasterAssistance.gov as the first stop for disaster relief. A product of the Disaster Assistance Improvement Program, the website enables survivors to apply for FEMA Individual Assistance and refers them to other forms of assistance, like loan applications from the Small Business Administration. The site also provides community resource information and disaster news feeds to help individuals, families and businesses prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

DisasterAssistance.gov reduces the time needed to apply for aid and check the status of claims while decreasing redundancy in application forms and processes. For more information, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov on your computer or m.fema.gov on your smartphone device.

How We Prepared for Isaac

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It’s been three weeks since Tropical Depression #9 became “Isaac” in the central Atlantic.  Over that time, we saw a slowly growing and changing storm and a closely coordinated emergency management team that was ready to respond to it. The team included local, state, tribal and federal government, the private sector, faith-based organizations and volunteer agencies– and FEMA was proud to be part of it.

I traveled across the Gulf Coast, before, during and after the storm, and witnessed years of advanced planning become a smart response. Investments in mitigation paid off, preventing the storm from being more destructive. Emergency managers didn’t wait for the storm to hit, and FEMA worked with state and local authorities to prepare and get supplies in place. Finally, we had an eye on recovery before the storm arrived, which aided communities in accelerating the recovery process. The bottom line – everyone worked together to prepare for this storm and it saved lives.

Isaac was initially a threat to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where FEMA deployed Incident Management Assessment Teams (IMATs) to assist local officials and prepare to distribute federal resources that are staged year-round in the Caribbean.  As the storm passed to the south of the islands, residents experienced some flash flooding, but thankfully avoided a direct hit from the storm.

As the storm proceeded towards Florida, I was on the ground in my home state to ensure that the federal government was in full support of local efforts.  With an unclear path for the storm, officials from the east coast of Florida through the Gulf Coast started preparing for Isaac.  FEMA staged resources in Jacksonville, Florida and Montgomery, Alabama, ready to move them closer to the impacted region as the path became clearer.  While the storm was still in the Gulf of Mexico, I traveled along the I-10 highway, visiting with the governors and/or emergency managers in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana as the storm approached.

Gulfport, Miss., Aug. 28, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate meeting with MEMA Director Robert Latham (left) and Mississippi Gov. Bryant (center) to discuss Hurricane Isaac preparations.

Gulfport, Miss., Aug. 28, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate meeting with MEMA Director Robert Latham (left) and Mississippi Gov. Bryant (center) to discuss Hurricane Isaac preparations.

We made sure we were working closely together before the storm made landfall and on Tuesday, President Obama signed emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi in advance of the onset of the storm, making aid available for federal support to save lives and to protect property, public health and safety in designated counties and parishes. First responders could get to work knowing that the federal government had their back.

I’ve waited for a lot of storms to make landfall and the anticipation never gets easier.  The close coordination the federal government had with the states beforehand left me more confident than ever that our team was prepared.

The preparedness measures were in the making longer than two weeks—  they went back years.  Smart investments in mitigation projects protected people and property across the impacted region.  On average, every $1 invested in mitigation saves $4 that would have been expended on a disaster.  After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program provided grants to communities and state agencies for projects designed to save lives and protect property.

Bay St. Louis, Miss., Sep. 4, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate visits the Bay St. Louis Fire Department in Mississippi following Hurricane Isaac.

Bay St. Louis, Miss., Sep. 4, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate visits the Bay St. Louis Fire Department in Mississippi following Hurricane Isaac.

In Mississippi, I visited the Bay St. Louis Fire House which was heavily impacted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  In August, 2010, the community cut the ribbon on a new Fire House that doubles as a safe room for up to 68 first responders, protecting them from winds in excess of 200 miles per hours for a period of 36 hours.  When Hurricane Isaac made landfall, slowly drenching the Gulf Coast in rain, first responders were able to respond and save lives because they had prepared.

In Louisiana, the Plaquemines Parish Faculty Housing project opened just last month, replacing housing destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. This time, the new housing was elevated to protect it from flooding.  With the support of FEMA, the Plaquemines Parish School Board also rebuilt many of its schools over the last few years, following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. Reports from the school board indicate that damage from Hurricane Isaac is minimal and none of the facilities flooded, thanks to smart investments in mitigation. As a result, all Plaquemines Parish schools were open yesterday, helping kids in the community to move beyond the storm.

Plaquemines Parish, La., Aug. 6, 2012 -- Photo of the Plaquemines Parish Faculty Housing project which celebrated its opening on August 6, 2012. FEMA obligated $8 million to this project which replaced housing destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The project was elevated to comply with the new Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map elevation for the area, which is in south Plaquemines Parish. FEMA has obligated a total of $206 million to the Plaquemines Parish School Board to rebuild its schools following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike.

Plaquemines Parish, La., Aug. 6, 2012 -- Photo of the Plaquemines Parish Faculty Housing project which celebrated its opening on August 6, 2012. FEMA obligated $8 million to this project which replaced housing destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Inevitably after a disaster, the national spotlight moves on to something else, but FEMA isn’t going anywhere.  This is a team effort and we are on the Gulf Coast to assist the local authorities and support the recovery effort. Also supporting that effort are dozens of voluntary agencies.  Their work is far reaching and has a real impact on Isaac survivors. If you are interested in a way to help, visit the National VOAD website at www.nvoad.org.  An individual’s support goes a long way to aiding affected communities recover.

 

Isaac update 7: August 31 recap

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admin fugate surveys damage
(August 30 - FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate surveys flooding in Madisonville, La. with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. (Photo courtesy of Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness)

Earlier today, the President held a call with a number of Parish Presidents, Mayors, and County Leaders from Louisiana and Mississippi let them know that they and their communities were in his thoughts and prayers and make clear that he had directed FEMA to continue to make all resources available. The President plans to visit Louisiana on Monday to meet with local officials and view ongoing response and recovery efforts to Hurricane Isaac, and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Janet Napolitano will travel to Mississippi and Louisiana on Sunday, Sept. 2.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate was on the ground in Louisiana and met with U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser today to discuss FEMA's efforts to support response and recovery in Louisiana following Hurricane Isaac.  Administrator Fugate then traveled to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to meet with Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Robert Latham and other state and local officials and see firsthand the impact and the response efforts.

As Isaac continues inland and rivers continue to rise in some areas, FEMA urges individuals in affected areas, and areas expected to be affected, to monitor their NOAA Weather Radios and their local news for severe weather updates and warnings throughout the Labor Day weekend. Always follow the instructions of state, local, and tribal officials, especially urgent evacuations orders and flash flood warnings.

Joint federal, state and local disaster assessments are underway in Florida and are scheduled to begin, safety permitting, in Louisiana and Mississippi.  Plans are being made for assessments in other areas, as they become accessible. These assessments identify the damages in impacted counties to help the governor determine if additional federal support will be requested.

In support of Louisiana, FEMA recently transferred more than 500,000 liters of water, 390,000 meals, 50,000 blankets, 30,000 cots and 3,500 tarps to the State of Louisiana for the state to distribute to individuals at Points of Distribution (POD) sites. The state, in coordination with local governments, identifies the location of these PODs which are currently operating across a number of parishes.  Individuals should contact their local emergency management for more information.

On Wednesday, President Obama signed major disaster declarations for the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, making federal aid available to supplement state and local response efforts for emergency protective measures and debris removal in the areas affected by Hurricane Isaac beginning on August 26, 2012.  These declarations build upon emergency declarations issued for both states earlier this week.  Statewide hazard mitigation is available to all counties and tribal governments in Mississippi, and to all parishes and tribal governments in Louisiana. 

Today, FEMA announced an amendment to the major disaster declaration for the State of Louisiana to include the Individual Assistance Program.  Federal funding is available to affected individuals in Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany parishes.  Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover and uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners households recover from the effects of the disaster.

Individuals and business owners households who sustained losses in the designated parishes can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at http://www.disasterassistance.gov, or by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov. If you do not have access to the internet, you can call 1-800-621-FEMA(3362).  Survivors who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate, starting tomorrow, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been closely working with the states of Louisiana and Mississippi.  Teams are on the ground providing technical assistance, such as hydraulic modeling and finding available portable pumps, to reduce flooding along the Tangipahoa River and in Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana.  USACE also deployed emergency power teams to Mississippi and Louisiana, and commodities, debris and temporary roofing teams are deployed to Louisiana.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) has two Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, an Incident Response Coordination Team, and equipment on scene in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is providing personnel and liaisons to support staffing of the Federal Medical Stations (FMSs). Two FMS caches have arrived in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

A 24/7 Disaster Distress Helpline was activated by the HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as a resource to people seeking crisis counseling after experiencing a natural or manmade disaster or tragedy.  The residents of the Gulf States can call 1-800-985-5990 for assistance.

Incident Management Assistance Teams are in state emergency operations centers in Mississippi and Louisiana as well as supporting state and local needs in Plaquemines Parish, La.  Mobile Emergency Response Teams also are deployed to Louisiana and Mississippi to support state emergency communications requirements including voice, video and information services.

While Isaac has been downgraded to a tropical depression, it still poses an ongoing threat for some areas.  According to NOAA's National Weather Service, a flood risk continues for low-lying areas in communities in northern Louisiana, northern Mississippi, and the states of Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana during the next five days.  Flash flood watches and warnings are currently in effect for portions of Arkansas and northern Louisiana. The National Weather Service is the official source for weather information.

As the storm continues to move further inland, FEMA's regional offices in Denton, Texas, Chicago, Ill., and Kansas City, Mo. are monitoring Tropical Depression Isaac, and remain in close coordination with potentially affected states.  An Incident Management Assistance Team and a Mobile Emergency Response Support Team from a previous disaster are on the ground in Ohio and can support response efforts for the approaching storm, if needed.

Below is a timeline of some of the key activities and events that have occurred since Tropical Depression Isaac first threatened Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on its path to the Gulf of Mexico:

 

Friday, August 31, 2012

  • Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano joined FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate on a video-teleconference call today to discuss the latest developments with the National Weather Service, partner agencies and regional representatives to assess their needs and readiness.  The conference had the participation of emergency management leadership from the affected states including Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
  • FEMA Federal Coordinating Officers remain on the ground in Mississippi and Louisiana, working closely with state and local officials to provide the full resources of the federal government to support response efforts to protect lives and property.
  • FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration participated in joint federal, state and local preliminary damage assessments are on the ground in Palm Beach and Indian River counties in Florida.  These assessments identify the damages in impacted counties to help the governor determine if additional federal support will be requested.
  • FEMA transferred to the state of Louisiana more than 500,000 liters of water, 390,000 meals, 50,000 blankets, 30,000 cots and 3,500 tarps for distribution.  The Louisiana National Guard opened Points of Distribution (POD) sites, to provide food, water, and supplies to those affected by Isaac.  These locations are determined by the state and local governments.
  • National Tribal Assistance Coordination Group (TAC-G) hosted a conference call with to discuss Isaac's impact, receive updates from Tribes, share initial reports from TAC-G partners regarding Isaac and future planning. The coordination group counts with the participation of Department of Interior/Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services Office of Indian Health Service, Department of Homeland Security, National Congress for American Indians and United Southern and Eastern Tribes. 
  • U.S. Postal Service offices were open and mail delivery returned today to New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and surrounding postal facilities where Isaac's torrential rains, severe winds and flooding had forced offices to close.  Today's mail consisted of Social Security checks, medicine and mail that could not be delivered on Tuesday.  Posts Offices are open and mail delivery has resumed throughout Mississippi.  Customers with questions or concerns about their mail should call 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777). 
  • The U.S. Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, River Pilot Associations and port authorities surveyed the Mississippi River and surrounding waterways in an aggressive effort to identify navigational hazards.  Although the Mississippi River was heavily impacted by the storm, the navigational channel is in good condition. The Coast Guard is working with the maritime industry to respond to a number of ship groundings and barge standings' along the riverbank caused by the river surge and high winds of the storm.
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) continues to support the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana Emergency Operation Centers and FEMA Regions IV and VI Regional Response Coordination Centers.  USACE is operating the Greater New Orleans District Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) and has begun opening up major structures as the storm surge slowly subsides. Major structures will continue to be opened until all required openings are completed.  In Mississippi, USACE is assisting Mississippi state officials with a controlled release at the non-federal dam on the Tangipahoa Lake in Percy Quin State Park in order to relieve pressure on the dam. The Vicksburg District Corps of Engineers created inundation mapping and provided the pumps to assist in relieving pressure on the dam.
  • More than 4,100 National Guard forces in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana are on State Active Duty prepared to respond to Isaac.
  • FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration staff joined state and local officials on joint preliminary damage assessments (PDA) in Florida.  These assessments identify the damages in impacted counties and to help the governor determine if additional federal support will be requested. 
  • FEMA's regional offices in Denton, Texas, Chicago, Ill., and Kansas City, Mo. continue to monitor Tropical Depression Isaac, and remain in close coordination with potentially affected states.  Regional Incident Management Assistance teams and other staff are on standby.  There is also an Incident Management Assistance Team and Mobile Emergency Response Support team, on the ground in Ohio, from a previous disaster that can support response operations from storm, if needed.
  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has agreed to lend 1 million barrels of sweet crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve's (SPR) Bayou Choctaw site in Louisiana to Marathon Petroleum Company to address the short term impact on the company's refining capacity caused by Hurricane Isaac.  The loan will be provided under short-term contractual agreements and Marathon Petroleum Company will return an equal amount of similar quality oil to the Reserve within three months, plus premium barrels, which is similar to interest.
  • The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA) is working with the Louisiana State Animal Response Team to plan and complete animal rescues. As part of this effort, ASPCA is deploying responders to conduct door-to-door rescue of animals in flooded or abandoned homes, assisting a Louisiana animal shelter facing flooding, and supplying boats and other equipment for critical water rescue missions. More information is available at. www.aspca.org

 

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