WASHINGTON–The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its federal partners continue to closely monitor Hurricane Earl, as it moves past Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and toward the East Coast of the United States. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Earl is now a Category 4 hurricane. FEMA is closely coordinating with state, territorial, and local officials in the affected areas and along the East Coast and stands ready to support their response as needed.
“We continue to monitor Hurricane Earl and remain in close contact with state, territorial, and local officials to ensure they have the resources to respond if needed,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “I encourage everyone in the region and along the eastern seaboard to visit Ready.gov and take steps now to keep their family safe and secure. The most important thing for people living in Earl’s potential tract to do is to listen to and follow the instructions of their local officials, including evacuation instructions if they are given.”
Since this weekend, FEMA has been in constant contact with the White House and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide regular updates on the storm’s developments. Fugate briefed DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday on FEMA’s ongoing preparations and coordination for severe weather in the Atlantic Ocean, including Hurricane Earl.
The National Weather Service forecasts the center of Hurricane Earl to move into the open Atlantic today, and travel east of the Turks and Caicos Islands later today and tonight. Although no watches or warnings are currently in effect for the mainland United States, history has shown that storm tracks can change quickly and unexpectedly.
Officials are closely monitoring the areas from the Carolinas to New England, and FEMA is coordinating with the Governors and local officials along the East Coast to aggressively prepare for possible severe weather. Severe weather and flash floods can occur miles inland, and are possible even if a hurricane does not make landfall.
FEMA has activated the National Response Coordination Center and its Regional Response Coordination Centers in all four of its regional offices in the eastern United States, located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. FEMA has designated a Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) and has personnel on the ground North Carolina at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh supporting the state, and is mobilizing personnel and supplies along the coast.
FEMA continues to support the Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in their response to Earl. FEMA staff are on the ground in both areas working closely with commonwealth and territorial officials, and FEMA has deployed an Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) to St. Thomas and to San Juan, where staff are on watch around the clock monitoring developments.
The agency also continues to monitor Tropical Storm Fiona, which according to the National Weather Service, is expected to pass north of the Leeward Islands today. According to the National Weather Service, tropical storm warnings are in effect for the Turks and Caicos Islands. A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical storm force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Additional rainfall of 1 to 2 inches is expected today in Puerto Rico, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches. These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. The Governor of Puerto Rico has issued a State of Emergency.
FEMA is also coordinating across the federal government to ensure commonwealth and territorial officials have the support they need. Federal and other support includes:
· Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has deployed a Regional Emergency Coordinator (REC) to the U.S. Virgin Islands in support of the FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) there, and has other resources prepositioned and ready for deployment.
· Department of Defense (DOD) has activated a Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO) in St. Thomas and a State Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer (SEPLO) team in Puerto Rico ready to support a response if needed.
· U.S. NORTHCOM is conducting weather reconnaissance flyovers today, including one departing from St. Croix, and one departing from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss.
· U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has closed U S. Virgin Islands seaports and has redirected cruise ships slated for the area. Coast Guard assets have also been on alert and prepared to help in search and rescue efforts.
· American Red Cross has personnel on the ground in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
FEMA has life-saving and life-sustaining commodities and supplies strategically located across the country to support states in their response, including in the areas of possible impact. These supplies, including water, meals, tarps, blankets, generators and other essential items, can be replenished through the national logistics supply chain.