WASHINGTON – Emergency management officials are appealing to residents of Texas and Louisiana who evacuated in advance of Hurricane Ike's landfall to stay put.
"This hurricane has caused devastation across areas of Texas and Louisiana," said David Paulison, Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "Along with our federal, state and local partners, FEMA is working around the clock to get live–saving assistance into the hardest hit areas. We need everyone's cooperation to keep passable roads clear and to prevent those returning from placing additional burdens on the limited shelter, food and water in the heavily impacted areas."
Many residents in Texas and Louisiana heeded evacuation orders and made the safe choice to leave areas threatened by Hurricane Ike. Early reports indicate that hundreds of thousands of customers are without power in impacted areas, and for some, it may be many days or weeks before power and other essential utilities are fully restored.
Returning residents could face blocked and washed out roads, downed power lines across highways, unsafe road crossings due to flooding and many other dangers. Many storm related deaths occur when residents return to their communities and homes, a statistic FEMA is trying to minimize in Ike's wake.
"We know people are anxious to return home, but we are asking for everyone?s patience in waiting for the all clear," said Paulison. "Our greatest concern is the safety of Texas and Louisiana residents, first responders and rescue workers."
FEMA pre–staged emergency response teams and critical commodities such as water, meals and tarps in strategic locations in Texas and Louisiana. Convoys of supplies are moving into heavily impacted areas but with many roads damaged or impassable, it may be several days before emergency workers are able to reach all the victims of Ike.
FEMA recommends that evacuees tune to local news coverage wherever they are located for ongoing response and recovery information. Federal, state and local officials will work with the media in these areas to communicate emergency information as it becomes available.
FEMA also reemphasized that volunteers should not report directly to the affected areas unless directed by a voluntary agency. Self–dispatched volunteers can put themselves and others in harm's way and hamper rescue efforts. To learn how you can volunteer or how to make a donation, go to www.fema.gov.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.