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UPDATED: AS HURRICANE EARL APPROACHES, FEMA URGES EAST COAST RESIDENTS TO BE PREPARED
Families Should Visit Ready.gov to Learn Steps to Prepare for Hurricanes and Severe Weather
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.
State and local officials make decisions on evacuation orders. FEMA urges everyone to heed any evacuation decisions made by state and local officials and to take steps now to ensure they are prepared for possible severe weather, and remember that hurricanes and tropical storms frequently bring flash flooding as well. Anyone can visit www.ready.gov to learn more about how to prepare for an emergency. A Spanish version of the website is available at www.listo.gov.
"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.
FEMA 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.
The National Weather Service remains the source of official severe weather watches and warnings, including flash flooding which can take only a few minutes to develop in the case of heavy rains.
FEMA encourages all individuals in the region to listen to NOAA Weather Radio and their local news to monitor for severe weather updates, and to follow the directions provided by their local officials.
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.