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Irene Update 14: Now Is the Time to Get Prepared

We continue to stand ready to support the governors and those states that may be affected by Hurricane Irene. The federal government is aggressively getting ready for two phases of this operation – response and recovery – and has teams and commodities moving into all of the states/regions across the East Coast that will be impacted. For those along the East Coast that may be affected by Irene, the most important message for today is to follow the direction of local officials and make sure you’re making plans to keep your family safety.

Hurricane Irene is a large, dangerous storm that could affect millions in the eastern U.S. with high winds, heavy rains, and potential flooding. If your area may be affected by Irene, make sure to follow the direction of local officials and closely follow news and weather reports. If local officials give the order to evacuate, do so along your pre-determined evacuation route.

The National Weather Service has issued many severe weather watches and warnings along the East Coast, so here’s a reminder on the terminology in case your area may be affected:

  • A hurricane watch means means sustained winds of 74 mph or greater are possible within the specified area in the next 48 hours. Be prepared to evacuate. Monitor local radio and television news outlets or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments.
  • A hurricane warning is means sustained winds of 74 mph or greater are expected within the specified area in the next 36 hours. If local authorities advise you to evacuate, leave immediately.
  • A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours. Be prepared to evacuate. Monitor local radio and television news outlets or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments.
  • A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within the specified area within 36 hours. If local authorities advise you to evacuate, leave immediately.

Your local National Weather Service forecast office is the best place to find information about Hurricane Irene’s potential impacts in your area, so check your local forecast at www.weather.gov or on your phone at mobile.weather.gov. And as Irene may bring heavy rains and potential flooding to coastal and inland areas, here’s a refresher on flood terminology as well:

  • 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, avoiding low-lying areas and roadways covered with flood waters.
  • Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

Visit Ready.gov/hurricanes for information on getting prepared for a tropical storm/hurricane, and bookmark m.fema.gov on your smartphone for tips on staying safe before, during and after the storm.

Irene Update 13: August 25 Recap

FEMA's Region Response Coordination Center in Atlanta, Ga.

Atlanta, GA, August 25, 2011 -- The Region IV Region Response Coordination Center in Atlanta, Ga. has been fully activated to prepare for for the threat of Hurricane Irene impacting North and South Carolina. FEMA regional offices along the East Coast, in Philadelphia, Penn., Boston, Mass. and New York, N.Y. are also working closely with potentially affected states.

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.

Thursday, August 25

  • Department of Homeland Secretary Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate brief 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.
  • In advance preparation for the storm, FEMA National Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMATs) are on the ground in North Carolina and Virginia and arriving in South Carolina, today in anticipation of further deployment to potential impact areas along the east coast of the U.S. In addition, Regional IMATs are also being deployed to Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, to coordinate with state, tribal and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls impacting potential disaster response and recovery.
  • In addition to Incident Support Bases (ISBs) operating in Fort Bragg, NC and Fort Gordon in Augusta, GA to support federal operations to respond to Hurricane Irene, ISBs are being set up in Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, to support states within the regions. 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 nearby affected states, should they be needed and requested.
  • FEMA Liaisons are currently located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York. Liaisons are also deploying New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland.
  • FEMA Deputy Administrator 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.
  • Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate later convened a call with state, local and tribal emergency management officials, homeland security advisors, elected officials and tribal leaders in all states potentially affected by Hurricane Irene as the storm travels up the East Coast-highlighting federal resources and coordinated federal, state, tribal and local resiliency efforts for Hurricane Irene.
  • Two Mobile Emergency Response System (MERS), one in Raleigh, NC and one at Fort Jackson, SC are staged to support emergency response communications needs.
  • A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 249th Engineering Battalion (Prime Power) team is staged at the Fort Bragg, NC Incident Support Base.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Water Science Center deploys crews to North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland to deploy storm surge sensors to coastal areas. Additional sensors are being shipped to Florida, Connecticut and New York.
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities along the east coast have begun preparatory actions in advance of potential landfall of Hurricane Irene.
  • U.S. Department of the Interior units affected by the storm, primarily national parks and fish and wildlife refuges along the coast, are taking all appropriate actions and informing the public via local announcements as actions are taken. Among the preparations, the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service are organizing and deploying Incident Management Teams and Law Enforcement Teams.
  • The American Red Cross begins opening shelters in North Carolina as local evacuation orders begin to go into effect. Additional shelters in North Carolina and other states are being prepared along the east coast. More information is available about open Red Cross shelters at redcross.org.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Hurricane Center is monitoring Hurricane Irene, issuing watches and warnings to affected areas as required, and flying jet surveillance missions to provide updated forecasts.
  • The Federal Communications Center (FCC) has deployed two Roll Call Spectrum Scanning teams to the FEMA regional offices in Atlanta and Boston. These teams conduct post scans after landfall to determine which critical communications systems might have been impacted.
  • U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) is prepared to provide public health and medical support to states along the east coast in response to Hurricane Irene. The HHS is also coordinating with public health and emergency management agencies in U.S. territories and states along the projected hurricane path to make information available on how people can protect their health as they prepare for and respond to hurricanes and other natural disasters.
  • The U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) has activated a Defense Coordinating Officer to the FEMA Regional Response Coordination Center in Atlanta in preparation for support to civil authorities as Hurricane Irene approaches the east coast of the United States. 

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

Irene Update 12: Administrator Fugate Offers Tips to Getting Prepared

We’re continuing to closely monitor Hurricane Irene as it threatens much of the East Coast, from Florida to Maine. While it’s too soon to tell exactly where Irene will make landfall or have the most significant impacts, Administrator Fugate has an update on the ways you can get prepared:
 


  • Know if you’re in an evacuation zone, and what your plan is to evacuate if local officials give the order.
  • If you’re not in an evacuation zone, be prepared for potential flooding and power outages. Make sure your emergency kit has supplies to sustain you, your family, and your pets for at least 72 hours.
  • Go to Ready.gov for information on building your emergency kit, making your family emergency plan, and staying informed. If you’re on the go, visit m.fema.gov for tips on preparing for a hurricane or tropical storm.
  • Visit hurricanes.gov for the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center. And for the forecast for your local community, visit the National Weather Service website at weather.gov.

For the latest on our role, visit the Severe Tropical Weather category on our blog.

Irene Update 11: Mayor Bloomberg Urges Getting Prepared

Editor’s Note: As Hurricane Irene makes its way up the East Coast, our state and local partners are encouraging those in their communities to get prepared. For those in New York City, we wanted to share an important update from Mayor Bloomberg on how they can get prepared. This morning, the Mayor made remarks outside a place of worship in Queens, and here are excerpts of his address.

Visit nyc.gov for Mayor Bloomberg’s complete remarks. For information on getting prepared for a hurricane or tropical storm, visit www.Ready.gov/hurricanes.

 

By the time Irene gets to us, which is forecasted to do sometime on Sunday, it certainly will still be a powerful storm – possibly as strong as a Category 2 hurricane on Long Island, but anything can happen in terms of its direction and its severity…

At this point, the forecast does not indicate that the storm would hit New York City with that strength, but we certainly will still see its effects here, including tropical storm-like conditions such as heavy rains and winds of 60 miles an hour or more…

In the meantime, there are some steps that New Yorkers can take to prepare themselves for the storm. First, find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone. You can do this by going on the City’s website, nyc.gov and typing in your address, or by calling 311 and giving your address to the call-taker. If you do live in an evacuation zone, now is a very good time to check in with your friends or family in other parts of the city and identify a place you could stay if the weather gets bad…

Secondly, New Yorkers can prepare themselves by stocking up on some basic supplies and making what we call a ‘Go Bag,’ a bag that you could take with you if you had to leave home at a moment’s notice. Some of the things you should have in a ‘Go Bag’ are drinking water, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, any important medications that you take, essential documents, such as passports or other forms of ID, and an extra set of car and house keys…

We expect that Irene will have an effect on our beaches, and we are urging anyone who chooses to swim in the ocean today or this weekend to be extremely cautious and to watch out for riptides. In the event of rough surf at beaches, we are prepared to close those areas to the public and move equipment. But the most dangerous thing in this city, probably, where you’re the most likely to have tragedies, is people that go swimming…

Don’t go swimming if there isn’t a lifeguard there, don’t go swimming when the beaches get closed. I know some people love to go in the rough waves, it’s exciting, but it is dangerous and there’s no excitement that’s worth dying. And every year we say this, and then we still have tragedies. So please, if you have friends and neighbors or family members that are going swimming, try to convince them not to do so. It’s just better to be safe than sorry…

If any New Yorker wants to know what they personally can do to prepare, the Office of Emergency Management’s hurricane readiness guide is available in 11 languages on nyc.gov or by calling 311.

Irene Update 10: Preparations Happening All Along the East Coast

It’s still uncertain where Hurricane Irene will make the most impact along the East Coast – but one thing is certain – all those along the East Coast should take steps to get prepared.

Whether you live in a coastal area in South Carolina, an apartment in New York City, or a farm in Maine that’s away from the coast, it’s worth getting your family and home prepared. Whether Irene is a major hurricane or tropical storm when it comes to your area, it will bring significant rainfall and potentially damaging winds, increasing the risk of flooding and potential power outages.

As we continue to work with our federal, state and local partners all along the east coast, we’re taking proactive actions to support our partners in the potentially affected areas:
 

  • Incident Management Assistance Teams are either on location or en route today to North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The primary mission of an IMAT is three-fold: rapidly deploy to an incident or potentially threatened venue, identify ways federal assistance could be used to best support the response and recovery efforts, should it become available, and work with partners across jurisdictions to support the affected State or territory.
  • State Liaison Officers are currently located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Liaison officers are moving today for New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland. These officials work with state officials to help coordinate federal support, if needed.
  • We’ve set up incident support bases and staging areas in several locations along the east coast that are pre-staging commodities commercial-size generators and communication equipment. These enhance our ability to quickly move needed supplies throughout the those states that may affected by the storm, should they be needed and requested.

And as we often say on our blog, we’re part of a larger team of voluntary- and faith-based organizations, other federal/state/local agencies, first responders, community groups, and members of the public that help the nation prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies.

What we’re doing is only a small part of the preparations being made at the national, state and local levels – it’s vital that individuals all along the East Coast to build their family emergency kit and make sure they have a family communication plan.

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.

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.

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