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Federal Agencies Continue Hurricane Maria Response and Relief Operations

Release date: 
September 25, 2017
Release Number: 
HQ-17-141

WASHINGTON – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its partners continue to provide life-saving and life-sustainment resources to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, while aggressively working to restore power and communications, and reestablish port operability to allow increased access for additional commodities and personnel into disaster-affected areas. Several airports are opened on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, currently limited to flights to address the governors’ main priorities, life-saving resources.

Today, FEMA Administrator Brock Long, joined by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Tom Bossert and Department of Homeland Security Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate Chris Krebs, visited the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  The leaders met with both Governors Mapp and Rosselló, along with FEMA personnel, for an update on the current situation and each governor’s priorities, and to assess the progress of response and recovery efforts underway. 

two men sit at a table

FEMA Administrator Brock Long stands at a podium on a stage. Two men stand at his left side and two men stand at his right side. A group of men and women sit in front of the stage.

(Images above) Bossert, Krebs and Long met with the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Governors today. (Photos: Paul McKellips-FEMA)

The U.S. Coast Guard reports the ports of Guayanilla, Salinas, and Tallaboa are fully open, and the ports of San Juan, Fajardo, Culebra, Guayama, and Vieques are open with restrictions in Puerto Rico. The ports of Crown Bay, East Gregerie Channel, West Gregerie Channel, and Redhook Bay on St. Thomas, the ports of Krause Lagoon, Limetree Bay, and Frederiksted on St. Croix, and the port of Cruz Bay on St. John are open with restrictions. Other ports are undergoing assessments.

In Puerto Rico, five flights are scheduled to arrive today with mobile communications, helicopters, and medical teams and equipment. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, 11 flights are scheduled to arrive Monday with 200,000 meals, 144,000 liters of water, and tarps. Barge movements are scheduled to arrive with over 70,000 tarps, vehicles and relief cargo.

Eight FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) task forces continue to conduct operations in Puerto Rico. To date, the US&R teams rescued 516 lives and two pets, while searching over 2,500 structures. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is continuing their search and rescue operations, and continues working to restore radio communication towers in the Caribbean.

Four men lift boxes
U.S. Coast Guard personnel help unload relief supplies at the San Juan International Airport Sept. 22, 2017. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by the hurricane. (Photo by Joe Raedle)

The U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, supported by federal responders from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and FEMA, worked to re-energize the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix. They are continuing service to the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix and the Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas. Response crews are deployed for the clean-up of fallen poles, transmission lines, and other damaged equipment, in support of the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority and Department of Public Works. A team of federal personnel from the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), a part of the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as additional personnel from the Department of Defense and FEMA, are on St. Thomas to support damage assessments and power restoration efforts across the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Federal Efforts Underway as of September 25, 2017   

  • The American Red Cross is working with government partners to distribute meals and water. Red Cross disaster responders from Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Finland, Denmark, and Spain are in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida helping with relief efforts.
  • U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) 
      
    • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has more than 670 personnel engaged. Temporary Emergency Power assessments are underway in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. With 83 generators in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and nine generators are installed. An additional 186 generators are en route to the impacted area. USACE deployed debris experts to assist local authorities with debris management strategies in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.
       
    • The U.S. National Guard Bureau (NGB) is responding to Hurricane Maria's devastation with more than 2,500 Guard members on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Priorities for the National Guard are moving food and water to those in need, augmenting local law enforcement to ensure community safety, and providing engineer support to help rebuild essential infrastructure.
      • In Puerto Rico, the National Guard is continuing to improve island communications. Four Joint Incident Site Communications Capability stations are there, and two more are currently en route, with others being sourced. They are also coordinating lifesaving search and rescue operations in affected communities.
      • In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the National Guard reopened St. Croix's airfield to receive critical supplies, and is facilitating reopening of sea ports as well. They are also clearing and repairing roads, manning and securing distribution points and shelters, and providing power generators to support critical infrastructure.
         
    • The U.S. Northern Command’s (NORTHCOM) USS Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group conducted a combined eight medical evacuations, 148 airlifts, and delivered 44,177 pounds of relief supplies and cargo to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The DoD returned the mobile communications tower to enhance air traffic control capabilities at St. Thomas International Airport.
      • U.S. Air Force strategic airlift missions more than doubled between Saturday and Sunday, and will remain high over the coming days delivering critical supplies and capabilities to Puerto Rico. Eight C-17 Globemaster aircraft are delivering relief supplies and a Disaster Management Assessment Team to San Juan as they continue to support the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Air Force is also further increasing airport throughput capacity in San Juan by assisting the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with air traffic control repairs. The Air Force's strategic airlift also conducted three aeromedical evacuation missions from St. Croix to Dobbins Army Reserve Base, the patient reception area for the Atlanta Federal Coordinating Center.
      • The U.S. Transportation Command is moving additional personnel and equipment to include eight U.S. Army UH-60 helicopters from Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, to the San Juan, Puerto Rico International Airport to increase distribution capacity.

A man in uniform and a hardhat stands on muddy grass holding up an antenna

Master Sgt. David Fernelius, left, and Airman 1st Class David Zham, Joint Incident Site Communication Capability team members with the 151st Air Refueling Wing Communications Flight in Salt Lake City, Utah, erect an NVIS high frequency antenna outside the Leonard B. Francis Armory in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sept. 20, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Paul Gorman)

A group of men and women stand in line to get water. Men in military uniforms stand around a truck.
Puerto Rico National Guard Citizen - Soldiers stationed at 783rd Maint. Co. in Toa Baja, PR, continue supporting this city after Hurricane Maria, this time supporting more than 6,000 gallons of water to the San Jose community, Sept. 24. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Alexis Velez)
 

  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is coordinating with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), FEMA, and industry to transport crews to the island to support damage assessments and restoration activities in Puerto Rico. In the U.S. Virgin Islands assessments will be made over the next several days to determine the extent of damage to the U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority's (VIWAPA) distribution systems. Restoration plans will be developed and made available once the damage assessment process is completed. DOE and FEMA are helping to facilitate VIWAPA in acquiring and transporting a new 25 megawatt generator. In addition, a New York Power Authority team is continuing to work with PREPA on damage assessments and power restoration efforts to critical facilities. DOE is posting Situation Reports here, and WAPA is posting updates here.
     
    • The Western Area Power Administration’s eight-person advance team and U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority met to go over the restoration plans and safety protocols. The two utilities are teaming up to keep working on repairs for the local 34.5-kilovolt system. Local updates about restoration work are available on U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority website.
  • The General Services Administration (GSA) is assessing damages for its more than 80 leased and owned properties in the Caribbean. The list of closed facilities can be found at gsa.gov/facilitystatus and will be updated continually as the status is known. USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov continue to support federal agency messaging on their home pages and are compiling federal agency updates and messaging on their Hurricane Maria pages found at https://www.usa.gov/hurricane-mariahttps://gobierno.usa.gov/huracan-maria..
     
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
       
    • A U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) mobile communications team arrived in Puerto Rico to help improve communications across the storm-impacted area. USCG personnel continue to deliver critical FEMA relief supplies to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
       
    • The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Region IV is coordinating the establishment of several Forward Deployed Operations Command Centers (FDOCC) in Puerto Rico in support of post-impact efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Four FDOCCs under the Area Incident Command are being designated for St Thomas, St Croix, San Juan, and Ramey.
       
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) deployed 139 personnel to assist communities recovering from Hurricanes Maria and Irma. In coordination with local officials, Interior life-saving and sustaining activities on Puerto Rico, St. John, and St. Croix include water rescue and searches, law enforcement, damage assessment, evacuation assistance, flood measurements and daily reporting of water heights.
     
  • Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies is providing 12 generators to Puerto Rico Center for Independent Living and The University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities. These will be used to set up power stations for people with disabilities to power their wheelchairs and other assistive technologies. For more information, visit their webpage.
     
  • The U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) recovery efforts began in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Limited handout mail service began over the weekend in St. Thomas, while post offices in St. Croix, St. John, and Puerto Rico remain closed. Most, if not all, of Puerto Rico continues to be without electricity and usable water, and USPS will begin to reopen postal facilities when it is safe to do so. The USPS continues to watch Hurricane Maria as it heads north into the Atlantic. Depending on the impact to the East Coast, mail service could be affected. Customers can find the latest service statuses at USPS Service Alerts.
     
  • U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) offices in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico remain closed. Several offices, including the San Juan disability determination service office, suffered extensive damage. SSA is working with the USPS to distribute all beneficiary checks, via express mail as soon as service resumes.

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Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 11:59