Bahama’s Residents Ask: Where Is Our Government?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

By Kirk SempleFrances RoblesRachel Knowles and 

MARSH HARBOUR, the Bahamas — In the hours and days after Hurricane Dorian tore through the Bahamas’ Abaco Islands, the first government rescuers many residents saw were American. Coast Guard helicopters cut through the sky to evacuate the sick and wounded.

The distribution of emergency supplies of food, water and medicine has been mostly coordinated by an ad hoc network of volunteers from Bahamian and American nonprofit groups. But Abacos residents say their own government, whose resources were largely wiped out, has been notably absent in the six days since the Category 5 storm struck and killed at least 43 people.

Also, the Bahamas and other small island nations work through a regional organization, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, to coordinate emergency response and relief and their help is not always clearly visible to people struggling on the ground.

“It’s ridiculous. Ridiculous,” said Martin McCafferty, a contractor based here in Marsh Harbor, the biggest town on the Abaco Islands. “This is a catastrophe, and they should be here in numbers.”

Governments, large and small, often need several days to mobilize after a major disaster, especially as local responders often fail to show up because their own homes have been demolished.

For example, after Hurricane Maria struck in 2017, Puerto Ricans waited several days for food to start flowing because air and seaports were closed. When the goods were finally sent in, the island lacked truck drivers to pick up and distribute them. Puerto Rico was left paralyzed.

But since Dorian carved a path of destruction across the Abacos and Grand Bahama islands this week, residents say the seeming absence of the Bahamian government has been glaring. And when the roads between isolated settlements needed to be cleared of broken trees and downed power lines, the work was mostly done by ordinary citizens.

ImageHurricane Dorian left several small villages on Grand Bahama island destroyed.
CreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times

Foreign governments, mainly the United States and British, have a notable presence. That’s because a tiny country like the Bahamas — its population of 330,000 is roughly 0.1 percent of the United States’ — is easily overwhelmed by a catastrophe on the scale of Hurricane Dorian.

The Caribbean relief agency, made up of 18 countries, has been working behind the scenes on a response plan. It enlisted the assistance of foreign governments, the United Nations and aid organizations, said Elizabeth Riley, the organization’s deputy executive director.

“One country does not have sufficient assets,” she said. “We look to sister nations to provide them.”

Additionally, some aid is bypassing government distribution channels altogether, arriving on private planes and boats from people in South Florida and elsewhere who frequently visit the Bahamas to fish or vacation there. Cruise lines and airlines have also stepped in.

Glen Rolle, a Freeport resident, was one of a team of nearly 30 civilian volunteers who borrowed Jet Skis and tractors, fighting through raging winds and storm surges to pull the stranded people of Grand Bahama down from the roofs of their homes.

A fire truck went by and they flagged it down, Mr. Rolle said. They were told the crew could do nothing to help.

“We said, ‘Come on, man, what you all mean y’all can’t help? Y’all are supposed to be first responders,’” he said. “I just don’t understand. Where are our first responders?”

Image

Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Since the storm, an increasing sense of desperation has taken over the streets of Marsh Harbor. People have broken into stores and businesses, some to take food and critical supplies, but others to thieve nonessential goods, including washing machines and truck tires.

In the absence of a strong, visible law-enforcement presence, some business owners took matters into their own hands, posting armed guards on their properties.

“Our armed forces, they fell down. They fell down on the job,” Mr. Rolle said. “They are here to protect and serve, but they weren’t up to the task.”

The National Emergency Management Agency, known as NEMA, said in a statement to the Times that the government was doing everything it could.

“Hurricane Dorian turned into a monster hurricane overnight,” it said. “We deployed security, food, water and other resources as quickly as was possible once the all clear was given so that first responders were not put at risk.

“We are continuing to deploy more resources to stabilize Abaco and Grand Bahama in the wake of one of the most powerful hurricanes ever in the Atlantic.”

A Bahamas Defense Force official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record, said that while the Bahamian government was involved in the relief effort, appearances might be different, especially when the public only sees foreign helicopters. The Defense Force was not flying helicopters in the disaster zone for a simple reason, he said: It didn’t have any.

Image

Residents waiting to be evacuated from the port of Marsh Harbour.
CreditDaniele Volpe for The New York Times

The American Coast Guard had evacuated 290 people by Saturday morning. Another agency from the U.S., Urban Search and Rescue Virginia Task Force 1 out of Fairfax, Va., sent 57 rescuers to find people who were trapped in debris. They arrived early Thursday with four dogs and 50,000 pounds of equipment such as saws and torches.

“We may be the first folks from a government agency this population has seen,” said John Morrison, the Virginia group’s spokesman.

Earlier this week, once the storm had faded, a group of seven men in Treasure Cay, a settlement on Great Abaco Island, used chain saws and machetes to clear the road to Marsh Harbour. It took them four hours.

The government was nowhere to be seen, said Deangelis Burrows, 47, a building contractor who lives in Treasure Cay and was part of that volunteer work crew.

He said that normally the government would immediately deploy work crews to clear roads, and security forces to safeguard the population. But not this time, he said Saturday.

“I haven’t seen them,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re somewhere else on the island but they’re certainly not here. It’s unreal.”

The airport in Marsh Harbor has become a critical hub for incoming relief supplies and personnel and for storm refugees trying to flee. But the job of reopening the airport this week fell, at least in part, to an American non-government group, G.S.D.

Image

United States Marines at the airport of Marsh Harbour.
Credit Daniele Volpe for The New York Times

Since then, the group’s members have been serving as the airfield’s air traffic controllers.

HeadKnowles, a Bahamian nongovernmental relief organization, is coordinating the flow of evacuees through the airport. Since Wednesday, the group has overseen the evacuation of at least 1,300 people, all by private plane, said Daylland Moxey, 27, who has been helping lead HeadKnowles’ effort at the airport.

Several police officers have been supervising the terminal entrance and members of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force have been providing some security around the perimeter. But otherwise Bahamian government officials have been scarce.

Throughout the day, hundreds of storm refugees waited at the airport for a chance to score a seat on an outgoing plane.

Many were clustered inside the terminal, which was cast in semidarkness because of an island-wide blackout. Others were bunched up on the sidewalk outside, behind a security cordon, hoping to get a chance to move into the building and closer to a plane heading off the island.

Several private planes had come throughout the day, unloaded relief supplies and filled their seats with storm survivors, whisking them to Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.

At least one large aircraft belonging to Bahamas air, a government-owned airline, had touched down, too. But it had taken only employees and their families.

Spotting a reporter walking through the terminal, several people took the opportunity to air their complaints.

Image

Aid arriving from Nassau to the port of Marsh Harbour in a Royal Bahamas Defense Force ship.
Credit Daniele Volpe for The New York Times

“The government hasn’t sent one plane!” yelled Reynon Ferguson, 31, who had been waiting at the airport all day along with hundreds of others in the hope of scoring a seat on an outgoing flight.

“Lousy government! Lousy prime minister!” Jerusha Williams shouted, referring to Hubert Minnis.

Another man, Delano Hart, 41, joined the bitter chorus.

“Private jets, private jets, private jets with four or five seats — and we have multitudes here!” he hollered.

Desperate people carrying backpacks and suitcases have also been swarming a dock on the harbor hoping to board boats to Nassau. On Thursday, some 15 private boats — ranging in size from small yachts to large ferries fitting several hundred — took storm refugees off the island. At least a half-dozen more private vessels, including a ferry packed with people and cars, shipped out with hundreds more evacuees on Friday.

On Saturday, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line said it brought 1,550 hurricane evacuees aboard the Grand Celebration Humanitarian Cruise ship, which sailed to West Palm Beach, Fla., from Grand Bahama.

The government presence at the port wasn’t totally invisible this week.

A few police officers and members of the Defense Force have been stationed at the wharf trying to maintain a semblance of order as evacuees gathered each day. Two ships from the Defense Force were docked and were unloading relief supplies.

But the evacuation process has been ad hoc and chaotic, leaving residents to sift through uncertain information, separating rumor from fact.

“Nobody’s telling us when the boat going,” said Jimmy Mackey, 40, a builder, who stopped by the port on Friday night looking for information about departing evacuation vessels. “They should have a government guy here, somebody being here telling you when the boat is leaving.

“But do you see anybody telling you anything?”

Azam Ahmed contributed from Mexico City.

A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 23 of the New York edition with the headline: Desperate Bahamians Ask: ‘Where Are Our First Responders?’. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

The reasons Hurricane Dorian is particularly dangerous

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Here are some of the reasons Hurricane Dorian is particularly dangerous

The differences between weather forecast models

JUST WATCHED

The differences between weather forecast models 01:12

(CNN)Hurricane Dorian is scary for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s expected to be a monstrous Category 4 storm by the time it gets to Florida early next week.

Winds that strong would be worrying enough, but that’s just one piece of Dorian’s package of threats.
With the caveat that forecasts often change as the storm approaches, here are the risks Dorian seems poised to pose:

It could be dark at landfall

Forecasts as of midday Friday predict Dorian making landfall late Monday or early Tuesday — while it’s still dark — somewhere on Florida’s Atlantic coast.
“One of the worst things you can have is a dark landfall,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. “You hear things moving, you don’t know where they came from. You don’t how big that thing was that just crashed.”

It could bring winds of 130+ mph

Forecasters predict the maximum sustained winds at Dorian’s core will be more than 130 mph when it makes landfall in Florida.
That would make it the strongest hurricane to strike the state’s Atlantic coast since catastrophic Andrew in 1992.
It also would put Dorian into the Category 4 range (130 to 156 mph).
Winds of at least 130 mph cause catastrophic damage. The National Weather Service puts it this way: Even well-built homes can lose roofs and some exterior walls. Trees and power poles are snapped or toppled.
Power outages could last weeks in areas affected by winds of these speeds.

It’s expected to linger. That will raise flooding threats

Dorian’s forward movement is expected to slow as it approaches land, and it should remain slow over land, eventually taking a turn to the north.
One consequence of that: Dorian would keep dropping heavy rain over the same areas for a long time.
That would lead to freshwater flooding. Heavy rain is forecast over much of Florida — as many as 20 inches dropping in parts of eastern and central portions of the state, Myers said. Coastal Georgia, too, should watch for heavy rain.
Strong winds also will batter areas over and over. The storm’s core should lose strength as it moves over land, but remember, its forward movement is expected to be a crawl. As of Friday, some forecasts had Dorian still somewhere over Florida about 24 hours after landfall — and still with low-end Category 1 winds.
A forecast map created August 30 shows predicted rainfall accumulations through September 6.

Storm surges could be bad. King Tides could make them worse

With any landfalling hurricane, you’ll want to look for storm surges — winds and pressure pushing seawater onto land. In Dorian’s case — churning counterclockwise and moving westward into land — we may see a good amount of storm surge just to the north of Dorian’s landfall spot.
Dorian is approaching at an unfortunate time, as far as storm surges go. Friday marked the start of Florida’s King Tides, a term that refers to the highest tides in any given period.
“The fact that this storm is hitting during some of the highest tides of the year is very concerning,” CNN senior meteorologist Brandon Miller said. “The King Tides adding a couple of feet to the water height is almost like the storm being a category higher on scale.”
King Tides combining with storm surges could mean people who typically consider themselves safely away from shore could, in fact, be in danger.
Storm surges north of wherever Dorian makes landfall “could easily be over 8 to 12 feet,” Myers said.

Hurricane Dorian lashes Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, could hit Florida as Category 3

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Hurricane Dorian lashes Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, could hit Florida as Category 3

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency as forecasters said Dorian promised “life-threatening flash floods.”

Hurricane Michael flattened towns where survivors remain in disbelief

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Hurricane Michael flattened towns where survivors remain in disbelief

“I looked over at my husband and I took his hand and I said we’re not going to make it,” Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson recalled thinking amid the hurricane.
by Natalie Valdés /  / Updated 
The sunset in Mexico Beach, Florida,

Mexico Beach is ground zero with every home leveled.Natalie Valdes / NBC News

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. — For a grueling 55 minutes, Mayor Margo Anderson didn’t know if they were going to survive Hurricane Michael.

She rode out the storm in the police headquarters building here with about 40 other people, including police officers, their families and their pets.

The group went room to room, dodging falling debris until the eye came through. Then, silence.

“I looked over at my husband and I took his hand and I said we’re not going to make it,” said Anderson. “We are not going to make it.”

Fortunately, all 40 people sheltered inside survived. Once the storm passed, they crawled through blown out windows to get out of the demolished building. The first time she went back inside the building, it was almost too much to bear.

“I have normally a very low, calm voice and I can feel myself just talking about it and I’m short of breath,” she said.

What Anderson lived through in Lynn Haven echoes the destruction seen by those throughout the area. The death toll from Hurricane Michael rose to 19 Sunday as searchers continued to make their way through the devastated parts of the Florida Panhandle. Residents have been left in disbelief, unsure of what’s next.

Four miles south of Lynn Haven is Panama City, Florida. Along the main road through town, every business has either some damage or is completely destroyed.

A local auto shop owner in Panama City was so worried about looting that he spent the night in his destroyed building armed with a shotgun.

William Johnson helps pack up a friend's belongings as he returns to his damaged home from hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach
William Johnson helps pack up a friend’s belongings as he returns to his damaged home from hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, on Oct. 14, 2018.David Goldman / AP

Meanwhile, Mexico Beach, just 24 miles away from Panama City, is considered ground zero for hurricane damage — every home there was leveled by the wind and rain. Search and rescue teams from Tennessee, Indiana and Florida are on the ground searching for 250 people who chose to stay behind and are currently unaccounted for.

“We continue to go through that list to assure that we account for everyone,” said Michael Pruitt, PIO for FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Incident Support Team.

Those without any insurance are in dire straits. Kelly Mitchell said her grandparent’s beach house is beyond repair. It was a place where generations of family members came together to enjoy the peacefulness of a small town coastal community of just about 1,000 people.

Kelly Mitchell drove back to Mexico Beach to find these pictures that her grandmother who would have been 100 years old had painted.
Kelly Mitchell drove back to Mexico Beach to find these pictures that her grandmother who would have been 100 years old had painted.Natalie Valdes / NBC News

“I know it’s just a big house but it has a lot of memories for us,” said Mitchell. “There’s a five foot of storm surge inside and it’s totally mud and sand and everything in the house is just destroyed. ”

Mitchell and her daughter Abby Golden made their way from Blountstown to Mexico Beach for one thing.

“We came down here mainly to get pictures that my grandmother who would have been 100 years old had painted in the house,” said Mitchell. “We wanted to salvage that and we were able to pick those up.”

In Lynn Haven, Anderson is working hard to check on her community, riding around otherwise impassible roads in a golf cart.

“We are all together. We have a hashtag. Lynn Haven Together And Strong. And that’s what we are,” said Anderson. “We have hope for the future and we’re going to get through it. People here are devastated. Our town has been catastrophically affected.”

Anderson organized the first distribution center in her city where residents can get a hot meal, water and ice. Volunteers have been working around the clock serving homemade casseroles, hot dogs, burgers, and even cupcakes. Everything has been donated from neighboring cities where people have power, can cook or can reach open grocery stores miles away.

“There’s a lot of good people here,” said Mara Harrison. “They just want to help.”

Harrison has lived in the Florida Panhandle all her life and she’s never seen devastation like this.

People line up for FEMA aid in Lynn Haven, Florida
People line up for FEMA aid in Lynn Haven, Florida, on Oct. 14, 2018.Natalie Valdes / NBC News

Across the street from the volunteer distribution center, her husband’s dentist office barely stands. But Harrison is more concerned about her neighbors who can’t leave their pummeled homes.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t have the means to leave and those are the people we need to help,” she said.

Anderson said 80 to 90 percent of the homes in Lynn Haven are destroyed. The Mexico Beach city manager said 95 percent of the homes in Mexico beach are uninhabitable.

Residents in Lynn Haven aren’t waiting for help. Although FEMA arrived Sunday to begin the process of providing transitional sheltering assistance to residents, volunteers continued to serve hot meals.

“Who’s going to help? People just don’t know they need to,” Harrison said as she prepared hot dogs and hamburgers for a long line of hungry neighbors. “They have no idea it’s like this.”

Trump says he spoke to Virgin Islands’ ‘president’ — which is him

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump says he spoke to Virgin Islands’ ‘president’ — which is him

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Virgin Islands is a US territory
  • Two hurricanes left the island in ruins

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump accidentally referred to the Virgin Islands’ governor as their President during a speech Friday — even though he is technically their President.

“I will tell you I left Texas and I left Florida and and I left Louisiana and I went to Puerto Rico and I met with the President of the Virgin Islands,” he told the audience of the Values Voter Summit in Washington.
“We are one nation and we all hurt together, we hope together and we heal together,” he said, later adding, “The Virgin Islands and the President of the Virgin Islands, these are people that are incredible people, they suffered gravely and we’re be there, we’re going to be there, we have really, it is not even a question of a choice.”
Trump appeared to be referring to Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp, instead of the “President” who is Trump himself. The Virgin Islands is a US territory.
The White House did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. But in the official White House transcript after the speech, his reference to Mapp as President was corrected to “governor.”
He was referring to how the Virgin Islands was hit first by Hurricane Irma, then Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the island.

More Hurricanes On The Way For The Caribbean

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN) Tropical Storm Maria formed Saturday in the western Atlantic Ocean, prompting a hurricane watch for areas battered by Hurricane Irma last week.

Maria is about 590 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles and is packing maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. The storm is moving toward the Caribbean at 19 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical Storm Maria forms in the Atlantic.

Maria is expected to gain strength through the weekend and become a hurricane by late Monday, forecasters said.
Tropical storm watches are posted for Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The hurricane watch covers Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat and Guadeloupe.

Tropical Storm Maria is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane as it impacts the Caribbean.

That means areas devastated by Irma could again be dealing with hurricane conditions by Tuesday or Wednesday.
Maria joins Tropical Storm Lee, which formed earlier Saturday in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.
Lee is spinning about 720 miles west-southwest of Cape Verde off northwest Africa and packing maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Lee isn’t expected to gain much strength over the next 48 hours and will likely fade to a tropical depression by Wednesday without affecting land, the center said.
These new Atlantic systems join Hurricane Jose, a Category 1 storm spinning about 480 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Jose could bring rain and wind to the US Northeast early next week.

Powerful Hurricane Irma could be next weather disaster

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Powerful Hurricane Irma could be next weather disaster

Story highlights

  • Hurricane Irma is a powerful Category 3 and has rapidly intensified on Thursday
  • Irma is in the open Atlantic, and it’s too early to know where it will hit

(CNN)While much of the United States’ focus is still on Texas and the destruction left behind by Hurricane Harvey and it’s historic rainfall, powerful Hurricane Irma is rapidly intensifying in the open Atlantic and poses a major threat to the Caribbean and potentially the United States next week.

Irma was named as a tropical storm on Wednesday morning and by Thursday afternoon it had strengthened into a large Category 3 hurricane, with winds of 115 mph.

Hurricane Irma satellite image

Such explosive strengthening is known as “rapid intensification,” defined by the National Hurricane Center as having its wind speed increase at least 30 knots (35 mph) in 24 hours.
“Irma has become an impressive hurricane,” the National Hurricane Center said on Thursday, noting the rapid intensification, and saying “this is a remarkable 50 knot [58 mph] increase from yesterday at this time.”

How are hurricanes named?

Hurricane Harvey underwent rapid intensification last week, just before landfall, which brought it from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane when it moved onshore near Corpus Christi.
Irma is a classic “Cape Verde hurricane,” a type of hurricane that forms in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands (now known as the Cabo Verde Islands) and tracks all the way across the Atlantic. Cape Verde storms frequently are some of the largest and most intense hurricanes. Examples are Hurricane Hugo, Hurricane Floyd, and Hurricane Ivan.
Hurricane Irma is forecast to continue to strengthen as it moves westward over the next five days and the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center puts a dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Irma on the doorstep of the Caribbean by the end of the five-day forecast on Tuesday afternoon.
A strong high-pressure ridge to the north of Irma, over the Atlantic, is steering the storm to the west and limiting the wind shear in the upper levels of the atmosphere, which has allowed the storm to grow so quickly. Wind shear is like hurricane kryptonite, and prevents storms from forming or gaining strength.
Unfortunately, Irma will remain in a low-shear environment for the next several days, so there isn’t much hope that Irma will weaken any time soon.
There is considerable confidence that Hurricane Irma will track to the west through the weekend and then take a slight jog to the southwest early next week in response “to a building ridge [of high pressure] over the central Atlantic.”
From there the forecast becomes a lot less clear, with some major differences among some of the key models meteorologists use to forecast hurricanes, differences so drastic that in one instance Irma slides harmlessly back out to sea and in another it makes multiple disastrous landfalls in the Caribbean and likely the United States after that.
The European model, or ECMWF, and the American GFS model have had some notable showdowns before, most notably with Hurricane Sandy.
With Sandy, the ECMWF correctly predicted a landfall in the northeast nearly a week ahead, while the GFS continually kept the storm offshore in what became a major black eye for the US weather modeling industry. There have been other examples where the GFS model has performed better than the European model, such as with a few major snowstorms in the northeast.
Right now, the GFS has Irma taking a more northerly track that curves to the north before it reaches the Caribbean, thus making a US landfall much less likely.
The European model keeps the storm tracking further west and into the Caribbean by the middle of next week.

European vs American weather models

Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with WeatherBell Analytics, said, “The ECMWF sees a much stronger ridge or Bermuda High [than the GFS] which forces Irma west, whereas the GFS has a weaker ridge and a more rightward, parabolic track.”
“The prospects for major impacts anywhere from Cuba to Carolinas is concerning for this very reliable model,” Maue said.
Irma is still more than 1,700 miles east of the Leeward Islands and any impacts from the storm shouldn’t be felt until Tuesday or Wednesday for the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico.
The forecast picture should become clearer after the weekend as we see which model correctly predicts Irma’s path.
Bottom line: Hurricane Irma is already a powerful hurricane and looks to only become more so. Those with interests in the Caribbean and southeast US coast should pay close attention to the forecast.

Atlantic Hurricane Season Begins: NOAA And FEMA Have No Leaders/Directors

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Hurricane season began on June 1, and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the season will be a busy one, with an above-average range of 5-9 hurricanes likely in the Atlantic.

The United States could be especially vulnerable to hurricane landfalls this year, observers say, but not because of the enhanced activity that is expected.

NOAA is forecasting an above-average hurricane season in 2017.

The two agencies that protect the country’s coast lines and its residents, NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are still without leaders — positions that must be appointed by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate.
“That should scare the hell out of everybody,” retired US Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré told CNN. “These positions help save lives.”
Honoré knows all too well the value that leadership plays during a crisis, as he commanded Joint Task Force Katrina. He coordinated military relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré talks to his soldiers at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, on September 8, 2005.

Despite concerns, FEMA and NOAA say they are prepared for the hurricane season and the aftermath of any storms that make landfall and cause damage.
NOAA runs the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the agency that tracks and forecasts tropical storms and hurricanes, providing five-day forecasts to allow government officials plenty of time to make preparations and organize evacuations.
Not only is NOAA lacking a leader, but the NHC is also without a director after Rick Knabb stepped down earlier this year after leading the center for five years. The director briefs government leaders as well as the American public directly on the forecast for impending storms.
Also under NOAA is the National Weather Service, which is tasked with issuing life-saving warnings for impeding threats from land-falling storms such as strong winds, flooding rainfall and damaging storm surge.
While also key in the preparations, FEMA’s role really kicks in once the storm hits and a disaster has been declared, as FEMA coordinates the government-wide relief efforts.
According to FEMA’s website, “it is designed to bring an orderly and systemic means of federal natural disaster assistance for state and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to aid citizens.”
But according to Honoré, things could be anything but orderly. “These operations will not function as they should with temporary people doing the jobs.”
“Just look back to Hurricane Katrina to see how important leadership was. If someone is slow in making decisions it can be costly — imagine having no one at all,” Honoré said, referring to the criticism and eventual resignation of then-FEMA director Mike Brown over the bungled response after Katrina hit.
Trump did appoint former Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long in late April to lead FEMA, but as of this week, the selection has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.
Despite the vacancy, FEMA director of public affairs William Booher believes the agency will be able to serve its mission.
“Throughout the transition to the new administration, FEMA has ensured that career civilian staff are in place in key positions throughout the agency, allowing them to continue, uninterrupted, to perform their core mission responsibilities — preparing for, responding to, recovering from, and mitigating all hazards, Booher told CNN.
Booher stated that the agency is “looking forward to working with the Senate on the confirmation process and a successful vote” for Brock Long.
A NOAA spokesman told CNN the National Hurricane Center’s acting director, Ed Rappaport, is an experienced leader with 30 years at the center.
“NOAA is fully prepared for the hurricane season and is even launching new and improved products and services this year,” said Chris Vaccaro. “Under our acting administrator, NOAA will continue to provide the American public with science and services important for public safety, the nation’s natural resources, and the economy.”
Trump has yet to appoint someone to the NOAA position.
While the heads of NOAA and FEMA are not the only vacant positions in the US government waiting on appointments, the prospect of a busy hurricane season make them two of the most important.
“We’ve already lost six months of preparation,” Honoré pleaded. “The government has been preaching to people to prepare themselves for hurricanes, but they haven’t done their part to prepare by picking someone to lead.”
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