Female operator: Good morning and welcome to the FEMA Hurricane Earl conference call. All participants will be in listen-only mode. Should you need assistance, please signal a conference specialist by pressing the star key followed by 0. After today's presentation there will be an opportunity to ask questions. Please note, this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to administrator Craig Fugate. Please go ahead. Craig Fugate: Well, good morning everybody, this is Craig Fugate with FEMA. As we are trackign the progress of Hurricane Earl, we have been working to both support the governors and the VI in Puerto Rico as well as preparing for possible impact on the East Coast. At this time I would like to turn it over to director Bill Read of National Hurricane Center for the latest on Hurricane Earl and the other systems that are out there. Bill? Bill Read: Thank you, Craig. The biggest issue of course is Earl. Earl is right now about 200 miles east of Grand Turk, still about a -- a little over a thousand miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. We're still a category 4 hurricane with 135 mph maximum winds. Still moving west-northwest, a little slower than yesterday. 14 mph. the pressure's still down at the 930 millibar level. On the forecast, one of the key issues is going to be when it starts turning to a more northwesterly rather than west-northwesterly track, which is expected to be later tonight. And then on the day Thursday it'll be running in the open Atlantic -- I mean Wednesday it'll be in the open Atlantic to the north and the east of the Bahamas. By Thursday we're expecting a turn more to the the north and an acceleration to the northeast on Friday. All of this would -- if all of it matches out perfectly would be parallel to the coast but there is still some concern for a close approach to Cape Hatteras on Thursday and Thursday night and of course New England if we don't turn as sharply to the northeast late Friday and into Saturday, and beyond that the Canadian Maritimes. Regardless of the actual spot track of that, we're going to have an impact in the way of dangerous swells and surf, rip currents and beach erosion as the storm moves up the coast. It's expected to still be a major hurricane off the mid-Atlantic states and a hurricane all the way up into the Maritimes. And even a minor shift back to the west could bring direct impacts to portions of the coastline to the mid-Atlantic northward. Fiona, on the other hand, is getting into close proximity to Earl. It's moving faster -- it's to the east of the islands at this time. It's forecast to remain to the northeast of the islands and not provide an impact to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in the same places that were hit by Earl, and sort of parallel to Earl and further off to the east. Maybe impacting Bermuda by the weekend. Uh, any...I think at this point I'll turn it back to Craig and will answer questions later. Craig Fugate: Thanks Bill. Next up is Tito Hernandez. Tito is one of our officials that we sent down to Puerto Rico with an incident management team. We reported this over the weekend and getting ready for the possible impacts of Earl. And at this time we're going to ask Tito to brief out on the current conditions in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Tito? Tito Hernandez: Yes, sir. At this time in Puerto Rico we have close to 200,000 customers without power. In the US Virgin Islands, 90% of the power grid was shut down for preventive measurements. We're working right now on the priority for both the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands territories power restoration. Our shelter populations in Puerto Rico, we had 160 people in 18 shelters. In USVI we had in 57 people in four shelters, but these populations are rapidly dwindling now because we're using the school systems for shelters and the school systems are going to reopen probably tomorrow on both islands. Overall, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands fared very well, the attention now is shifting to other systems that might cause damages. We are policed now both teams, the IMAT in Virgin Islands and the IMAT in Puerto Rico are looking at the potential for requests for preliminary damage assessments. We understand that Virgin Islands is asking this preliminary damage assessments to start tomorrow. The government in Puerto Rico is still assessing damages but they don't foresee a request for preliminary damage assessments at this time. Sir, and that's what we have in terms of the area. We have debris, a lot of debris due to fallen debris and tree limbs around the areas in the islands. That's another one of the priorities, to clear the roadways so that we can get emergency vehicles through, and that's concludes the report, sir. Craig Fugate: Thank you, Tito. As I understand it, also in your reports, you do have cell communication, phones are working, the airports are are reopening, and most of this is focused around power restoration and cleaning up from the debris from fallen trees, so far? Tito Hernandez: Yes, that's correct, sir. And including the transportation to the islands, Vieques and Culeba have been reopened and the Port of San Juan has reopened also to bring vessels that were outside of the area waiting to bring in commodities, and the port in Virgin Islands is also opening today. Craig Fugate: And we'll have a chance for questions at the end. I wanted to bring you up to speed on what FEMA is doing now in support of our states and local governments as Earl continues to track toward the East Coast. As Director Read points out, we do not have a forecasted landfall, but this a very large system, we do expect impacts along the coast, and because of the proximity to the coast, evacuations may be required if the storm does not make that turn as forecasted and tracks a little bit further toward the west. So we have teams either deployed or deployable to each states to the Carolinas north to Maine. Currently we have a team that is deployed into the state of North Carolina to support them, if that becomes necessary, and we have additional teams designated for each state. We are using our regional offices, which would be Region 1 in the northeast New England states, Region 2, which would be New York, New Jersey, in addition to Puerto Rico and the VI, Region 3, which has the mid-Atlantic states, and then Region 4, which has North Carolina south to Florida. All of these regions are working in close partnership with their states. We also have our logistics moving -- getting ready to move resources if required based upon any forecasted landfall. But our most important message -- and we really need your help in doing this -- is to keep people aware of this storm, to make sure that they have taken the steps to plan for this storm and that they have all of the planning done before the storm threatens. That will be the best way -- I know we've go a holiday coming up, people are asking questions, should they be canceling their plans? I think the first step is -- if they've got a good family disaster plan and know what they're going to do and build in some flexibility -- that, again, I think that you really just want to make sure we're ready and if the weekend is good, great, if not, you know what to do. If you need information or if you want to show -- send people somewhere to get ready to work on their evacuation planning or disaster preparedness, we would recommend ready.gov, at www.ready.gov to get information. And then for a lot of folks that are out there that may not be at their computer screeen and want to get updates from FEMA, you can go to out website -- our mobile website -- which is m.fema.gov. And we actually have on their a link back to the National Hurricane Center mobile page, so if you're on their with your phone and you want to get updates, m.fema.gov and we we have links to the mobile pages for the National Hurricane Center to get the official forecast and updates. And then one last thing before I close. For me and the media -- and Bill Read as a former local meteorologist in charge of the local forecast office will confirm this -- though the Hurricane Center puts out the local forecast track and intensity, local impacts will come from your local weather service office, either in the Hazardous Weather outlooks, or if hurricane watches or warnings are issued out of hurricane local statements, and this will be the best, most accurate information for the localized impacts that a community be experiencing. And we would ask people to go those sites, and the Hurricane Center does make it a link to the hurricane local statements when they're issued to make sure that people have the best possible information about the hazardous weather that may be occuring in their area. And that I'm going to turn it over to Rachel to get ready to take questions. Rachel Racusen: Hi everyone this is Rachel Racusen with FEMA's Public Affairs office. Just before we turn it over to Q&A, I just want to say, because we have a limited time for questions, if you're not able to ask a question on this call and you need some more information from us, FEMA's Public Affairs office can be reached at 202-646-3272. Again that's 202-646-3272. And obviously we want to make sure that you're getting all of the information that you need as this progresses. And with that operator I think we're ready for questions and answers and we would just ask that all of the reporters on the call, when you ask a question, please state both your name and your publication. Female operator: We will now begin the questions and answer session. To ask a question, you may press star and then 1 on your touch tone phone. If you're using a speakerphone, please pick up your handset before pressing the keys. To withdraw your question, please press star and then 2. Again, it's star then 1 to ask a question. At this time we pause momentarily to assemble our roster. As you ask your question, you are requested to provide name and publication or media organization. And the first question comes from Jason Miller of Federal News Radio. Please go ahead with your question. Jason Miller, Federal News Radio: Thank you. Good morning Director Fugate and Mr. Read. Quick question, from an internal process perspective for FEMA -- I know you guys want to talk maybe externally - but what's the impact on Hurricane Earl and Fiona and some of the other ones on FEMA and its employees, how are you guys getting ready? How is this year maybe different from previous years just in terms of lessons learned? How are you guys maybe improving how you are preparing as hurricanes development and they move up the coast? Craig Fugate: Well, the first thing is we've put a lot of emphasis on our own staff being prepared as we start National Preparedness Month tomorrow. But we also make sure that we get going early, we're not waiting for these storms, as evidenced by having the teams down in Puerto Rico and the VI before the storm hit. So, again, we bring our people in early, we are making sure that -- again, this is a support to the governors and their teams. Evacuations are directed by local and state officials, but we're not waiting for people to ask, we're not waiting to go look for the teams to go ... in fact we've had people moving from the West Coast to the East Coast to have enough teams to cover all of the states because this storm's going to parallel the coast and we want to have people ready to go in each of the states if there's a request. Female operator: The next question comes from Lisa Stark of ABC News. Please go ahead. Lisa Stark, ABC News: Thank you very much Mr. Adminstrator. Could you be more specific about which teams are already deployed? You said you already have a team in North Carolina. Is that the only state where you -- I know you have other teams ready to go -- is that the only state where you have an advance team right now? And exactly where are they and what are they doing? Craig Fugate: Alright, we have a team in the US Virgin Islands and we have a team in Puerto Rico, and they're currently with governors right now on what the impacts were. We have our pre-designated federal coordinating officer, who is linked up with the North Carolina emergency management division, and they are located the state emergency operations center. And the IMAT, or the Incident Management Assistance Team, is reporting there. Again, these teams will link up with their state counterparts and their state emergency operations centers to support any assistance the state may need for both the recovery, but also preparing for if there's any significant impacts that we would expect that the state would require assistance for. We are...through our regional offices, we offer these teams to the states, literally from Virginia north to Maine. It will be a timing issue as states look at when they'll activate to get ready for this storm. But we wanted to have the teams in place, ready to go, particularly because we are bringing in additional teams that are traveling today, which will be ready to go in tomorrow morning in the New England states. So this is based upon as the states begin their activations. We did not want to have to wait until they requested to get teams ready, they're already.. they are designated and we are talking to the states as they look at the timing of activating their state emergency operations centers. Lisa Stark, ABC News: Thank you. Female operator: The next question comes from Oren Dorell of USA Today. Please go ahead. Oren Dorell, USA Today: Hi Director Fugate. We're...what other impacts are we expecting from this storm up in New England? You mentioned that you're going to have teams ready to go in in New England, what's expected in that area, and what would they be doing? Craig Fugate: Well, our concern is -- again, as Director Read said -- and I'll let Bill talk about the actual storm impacts, but if the storm trac k is a little bit further to the west, it will get so close to these coastal communities, even if it's not forecasted to come ashore, we would not be able to wait to see if the forecast verifies that a little deviation further west could prompt an evacuation, so, again, the biggest concern there is how close does it get to the locals, and states order evacuations. But some of the other impacts I think would be offshore could impact -- and coastal impacts, and I'll turn it back over to Bill Read for that. Bill Read: OK, yes, in addition to the high waves that are generated there as this storm moves north, the circulation will grow, so on this track forecast there's probably going to be a certain amount of tree damage occur, with even tropical storm force winds, because your trees are full of foliage this time of year, unlike in a winter storm, and that leads to power outages. It's moving kind of fast, so the rainfall, though it may be kind of intense briefly, it's not going to be over the same place for long, and then there's a cold front that's interacting with the system as it comes east that could also play in the weather, so it definitely is a weather maker for the coast there, even if the center itself doesn't cross. Oren Dorell, USA Today: Just to be clear, did you say, Director Fugate, that you're going to wait for, that you're going to be waiting for...to verify if there's any deviation to the west before an evacuation would be required, right? Craig Fugate: What I'm saying is, because it's going to be so close to the coast, if it tracks a little bit further west, they're going to have to make decisions based upon how long it takes to evacuate people, so they would not be able to wait to see if the track follows. They'll have to start making their decisions based upon when they could expect the arrival of tropical force winds. Oren Dorell, USA Today: Ah so. Craig Fugate: And even though the track may not bring it ashore, and the official forecast still keeps it offshore, it may be so close to their decision-making that they would have to make that decision to evacuate or they would lose that opportunity and if it tracks further west they would not be able to leave in time. Oren Dorell, USA Today: Thank you. Female operator: And the next question comes from Mike Baker of AP. Please go ahead with your question. Mike Baker, AP:. [This is a situation that] I think people are really starting to become concerned about, though, how close is too close to the coast to make that decision on an evacuation? Craig Fugate: Well, this is decisions that are going to be made by the local officials. Again, what you deal with --- I'll throw you some terms here that probably won't mean much to the public but if you hear them from the emergency managers I want you to know the background. We talk about a clearance time, and a clearance time is, from the time we would expect tropical force winds to arrive, and then we count backwards on how long it would take to successfully evacuate. Now that clearance time means that in some communities it could be, you know, 12 hours, and in some communities it could be even longer, to 24 hours. And that's why the Hurricane Center provides the watches and warnings, to provide that lead time, but the actual decision is literally going to be made community by community based upon that clearance time of when they would have to evacuate. So the longer the clearance time, the earlier they'll have to go, the more uncertainty in the forecast. The shorter the clearance time, the higher the verification and the likelihood that they may not have to order an evacuation unless they're getting more direct impacts. And so this will be made literally as we go into the afternoon as people are looking at their clearance times, looking at storm forecasts...if they do not make a decision within that clearance time, the risk they would have is that they would not be able to complete an evacuation if the track is a little bit further west and they do get those direct impacts. And again the reason we're evacuating is not from the wind. The primary threat here is going to be storm surge and so, again, it's based upon the potential for that storm surge impacting the low-lying areas on the coast. We use tropical force winds, however, as a benchmark to have an evacuation nearly or completed because many of the overland routes will include high bridges that other things that very power winds -- you get tropical force gusts -- would make it extremely dangerous. So we try to have the evacuations done before that would occur. Mike Baker, AP:. Thanks. Female operator: And the next question will comes from Eric Berger of the Houston Chronicle. Please go ahead. Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle:. Hi, good morning. This question will be for Bill Read. Maybe just talk for a little bit about whether you have average confidence or above-average confidence in your track forecast. The model's seem fairly tightly clustered at least, for the first 48 hours, so maybe you could just talk about how you feel about the forecast. Bill Read: Oh hi Eric, yeah I would ... I guess average is the case, I think there are already complicating factors, especially as you get out in time, the exact structure and timing of the trough that will change the steering current to one of moving northwest to the storm moving northeast instead. But initially the challenge is, how fast is...how soon is Earl going to start moving northwest. It's still moving west-northwest. Any interaction that would occur with the proximity of Fiona, though, we think it will be mostly on Fiona, not Earl. So, I would say average, and I think the problem is, as we've been noting here, is that we've been running parallel to the coast, rather than perpendicular, so that even a small error of 100 miles in the wrong direction could be a huge impact difference. Female operator: The next question comes from Margo Perez of El Nuevo Día newspaper. Please go ahead. Margo Perez, El Nuevo Dia: Hi, thank you for taking my call. This morning there was a concern regarding Tropical Storm Fiona, because it's moving more towards the west than towards the northwest. So maybe it's going to pass near the shore of Puerto Rico than it was probable. This also happened with Earl because it was supposed to pass about 300 miles from the north coast of Puerto Rico and it passed about 100 miles so what is the forecast for Puerto Rico thus far? Bill Read: We're bringing up some of the Floyd data for us here. Boy, we're talking the wrong storm here...Fiona data. And the circulation of Earl is one of the factors that plays into this and we actually think that at this time, that Fiona, which is a smaller storm and not expected to intensify as much, will be moved more toward the northwest at a sooner time than what will happen with Earl, though obviously we will be watching that. At the present time, there is a relatively low chance of the storm having an impact on Puerto Rico. Margo Perez, El Nuevo Dia: OK, thank you. Rachel Racusen: Operator, we have about time for one more question. Female operator: The next question comes from Ron Scherer of the Christian Science Monitor. Please go ahead with your question. Ron Scherer, Christian Science Monitor: Hi Mr. Adminstrator and Director, thank you very much for having this press conference. Again, I just wanted to get a sense of what the timing is here on when you would start to suggest to people that they get beyond the "we're just watching the news" basis and into the "we need to pack and we need to start to evacuate." Craig Fugate: I'll start off with Bill, I think you can give them some timing of what you guys are looking at and then I will talk a little bit about the actions. Bill Read: OK, the first thoughts is that -- as Craig has pointed out -- is it's different for different communities as far as any kind of an evacuation. But my timing is such that actual impacts on the coasts of the Carolinas will begin with waves late in the day tomorrow, continuing on through there for the Carolinas and then Friday then further up the coast. So, my thinking would be -- if it were my family I would have them know what they're going to do now and then make that decision as the storm gets closer. Craig Fugate: And this is Craig. I think this is, the message today is, although the decision to evacuate will be made by local officials, today is the day to make sure you have your plan completed, your supplies in place, particularly -- and we've been talking about this -- many folks along the coast who haven't had one of these storms come by, may not be sure if they live in the evacuation zone or not. Again, we're not evacuating, primarily, we're mainly concerrned about storm surge and local communities have maps that show those areas. This is something that the Hurricane Center, Corps of Engineers and FEMA work on: to update and provide the best information about the storm surge, but today is the day to make sure that you've got your family disaster plan, that you've checked your supplies. [If you] live in an evacuation zone, have a destination where you're going to go, so that if evacuation orders are issued, you know what you're going to do. So today is the preparedness day. That's what they need to be doing. Then if evacuation orders come later this week you're able to implement your plan. And again as we come up on this holiday weekend we are reminding people to build some flexibility into their plans...it's still a concern especially along the coast, what those impacts will be. It's too early to rule out anything other than [that] Earl's a very large storm, it's a very powerful storm, and today's your preparedness day. Tomorrow may require people to begin heeding evacuation orders. If they're issued: again, FEMA does not issue evacuation orders. In our states, evacuation orders come from local officials in the state as on to the specific impacts to their communities based upon the storm threat. Ron Scherer, Christian Science Monitor: Can I just follow up and ask whether you're planning a subsequent press conference, perhaps tomorrow, to update us? Craig Fugate: Rachel? Rachel Racusen: Well, we will likely do something tomorrow but we'll have more details on that as the day progresses, so we'll keep you posted. Ron Scherer, Christian Science Monitor: Thank you. Rachel Racusen: And, folks, just as we wrap this up, please feel free to call our press office for any additional questions, at 202-646-3272. Thank you all. Female operator: This concludes the question and answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Adminstrator Fugate for any closing remarks. Craig Fugate: Thank you, everybody, this is Craig. As you know, this storm is going to be a focus for the next couple of days. Please call us if you need anything. Again, some good websites if they haven't got their plan, is www.ready.gov, fema.gov, as well as our mobile page. m.fema.gov, so people can stay up on what's going on. In addition, we do link to the National Hurricane Center's mobile page and it's important that people all along the coast, from the Carolinas north, monitor the progress of this storm. We thank you for getting the word out and we will be back in touch as the situation dictates. Female operator: The conference has now concluded. Thank you for attending. You may now disconnect.