WASHINGTON – As evacuations begin today in some coastal counties, with more likely to follow, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging residents to listen closely to state and local officials’ guidance and to take seriously any directions to evacuate.
FEMA is working with its federal and state partners at the Regional Response Coordination Centers in Atlanta and Philadelphia to help coordinate any requests for assistance from states potentially affected by Hurricane Matthew.
According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Matthew is moving northward with sustained winds of 125 miles per hour through the northern Caribbean, and it could impact Florida and the U.S. East Coast this week. Hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings have been issued for Florida's coastline. Heavy rain between four to ten inches, winds and significant wave heights are expected to impact the Florida Keys, coastal Southeast and the Carolinas beginning on Thursday through the weekend. Evacuations for some coastal counties are beginning today.
“Residents and visitors should take evacuation orders seriously and heed the directions of state, local and tribal officials,” said FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate. “This is a major hurricane that has the potential to cause significant harm to life and property. If instructed to evacuate, don’t wait for the next forecast, evacuate.”
FEMA liaisons are deployed to the state emergency operation centers in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina to assist state responses, as needed in advance of the storm. FEMA stands ready to assist additional states and tribes, as needed and requested.
FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT) are deployed to emergency operations centers (EOC) in Florida and North Carolina. Additional IMATs are scheduled to arrive at the EOCs in South Carolina and Virginia today to support preparation activities and ensure there are no unmet needs. Additional teams from around the country are ready to deploy to affected states and tribes as necessary.
Four Incident Support Bases have been identified in Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, to pre-position commodities and resources closer to potentially affected areas.
Shelters are beginning to open across the potentially impacted states. Download the FEMA mobile app for disaster resources, weather alerts, and safety tips, in English and in Spanish. The app provides a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, maps of open shelters and recovery centers, disaster survival tips, and weather alerts from the National Weather Service. The app also enables users to receive push notifications reminding them to take important steps to prepare their homes and families for disasters.
Safety and Preparedness Tips
Hurricane Matthew has potential for life-threatening rain, wind and storm surge. Those in potentially affected areas should be familiar with evacuation routes, have a communications plan, keep a battery-powered radio handy and have a plan for their pets.
Individuals should visit www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov to learn these and other preparedness tips for tropical storms or hurricanes. If the storm is expected to affect your area, know your evacuation zone and follow the direction of local or tribal officials if an evacuation is ordered for your area.
If you will be evacuating, contact family and friends to let them know you are leaving and where you’re going; and take your pets with you or pre-identify a pet-friendly safe location like a pet friendly hotel or shelter.
Create a household inventory: For insurance purposes, be sure to keep a written and visual (i.e., videotaped or photographed) record of all major household items and valuables, even those stored in basements, attics or garages. Create files that include serial numbers and store receipts for major appliances and electronics. Have jewelry and artwork appraised. These documents are critically important when filing insurance claims.
Other steps to take right now to protect property are:
- Make sure your sump pump is working, and then install a battery-operated backup, in case of a power failure. If you already have a battery backup, install fresh batteries. Installing a water alarm will also let you know if water is accumulating in your basement.
- Clear debris from gutters and downspouts. Clear storm drains in the street or near your home of leaves and debris.
- Move electronics, valuables, and important documents to a safe place.
- Roll up area rugs, where possible, and store them on higher floors or elevations. This will reduce the chances of rugs getting wet and growing mold.
- Shut off electrical service at the main breaker if the electrical system and outlets will be under water.
- If you incur expenses due to protecting your home in preparation for coming storms and flooding – such as purchasing sandbags – you may be able to file a claim against your National Flood Insurance Program flood policy for reimbursement. Call your insurance agent to discuss your coverage and learn more.
There is the potential for flooding with this storm. Driving through a flooded area can be extremely hazardous and almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles. When in your car, look out for flooding in low lying areas, at bridges and at highway dips. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle. If you encounter flood waters, remember – turn around, don’t drown.
Get to know the terms that are used to identify severe weather and discuss with your family what to do if a watch or warning is issued:
For a hurricane:
- A Hurricane Watch is issued when a tropical cyclone containing winds of at least 74 MPH poses a possible threat, generally within 48 hours.
- A Hurricane Warning is issued when sustained winds of 74 MPH or higher associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in 36 hours or less. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.
For a tropical storm:
- A Tropical Storm Watch is issued when tropical cyclone containing winds of at least 39 MPH or higher poses a possible threat, generally within 48 hours.
- A Tropical Storm Warning is issued when sustained winds of 39 MPH or higher associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in 36 hours or less.
- A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding.
- A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.
To learn more about what to do before, during and after severe weather, visit www.Ready.gov.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.
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