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FEMA Actively Monitoring the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as Hurricane Maria Makes Landfall

Sep 20, 2017

FEMA

Continue to shelter in place, and do not return home until local officials indicate it is safe to do so
 
September 20, 2017
 
The top priority of the federal government is protecting the lives and safety of those in areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and those who remain in the forecast track of Hurricanes Maria and Jose. FEMA, through its headquarters and regional offices in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, the Caribbean Area Office, and liaisons to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, is closely monitoring the tracks and impacts of Hurricanes Maria and Jose.

FEMA continues to support response and recovery from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Hurricane Maria remains a dangerous major hurricane and is moving over the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where tremendous impacts are expected Wednesday.

According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Jose will continue to produce dangerous surf conditions and rip currents along with heavy rainfall across the Northeast for the next couple of days.

FEMA encourages all residents to continue to follow the direction of state, tribal, commonwealth, territorial, and local officials. Continue to shelter in place, and do not return home until local officials indicate it is safe to do so.

U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico
FEMA’s Mobile Emergency Resource Support team identified additional communications assets to deploy; and is arranging a Department of Defense airlift to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria’s landfall.
 
On September 18, President Trump issued the following federal emergency declarations in advance of Hurricane Maria’s landfall:
 
For the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands as a result of Hurricane Maria beginning on September 17, 2017, and continuing. The declaration provides assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance under the Public Assistance program for all areas of the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
 
For the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria beginning on September 17, 2017, and continuing. The declaration provides assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance under the Public Assistance program for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
 
FEMA personnel on the ground in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico for the response to Hurricane Irma are coordinating with the Governor’s office, the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), and the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency (PREMA) as Hurricane Maria approaches the islands.

FEMA has an Incident Management Assistance Team and Federal Coordinating Officer co-located with the Governor on St. Croix, as well as liaisons on St. John and St. Thomas, and a Federal Coordinating Officer, permanent and surge staff in Puerto Rico, who will remain in place throughout Hurricane Maria’s landfall.

FEMA’s efforts in the USVI include an increased push of commodities over the last several days to VITEMA points of distribution to ensure residents have extra food, water, and supplies ahead of the storm.  Puerto Rico received additional medical cots and other commodities through the Caribbean Distribution Center.

FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams and support resources remain in Puerto Rico, and will support any search and rescue requests from the Commonwealth and from the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Other federal agencies are taking the following actions:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has one Disaster Medical Assistance Team deployed to Puerto Rico.
HHS activated National Disaster Medical System Definitive Care Reimbursement Program, which reimburses medical facilities and hospitals for the medical care costs of patients medically evacuated following disasters
Public Safety and Security Emergency Support Function (led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) is coordinating airlift and deployment of four additional Quick Response Team to San Juan post landfall to conduct forecasted security measures.
The U.S. Army Area Support Medical Company and the U.S. Air Force Ground Surgical Team are sheltered in place in the U.S. Virgin Islands for Hurricane Maria.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is prepositioned assets in Puerto Rico, including storm surge and rapid deployment gauges, to support water-level measurements and flood forecasting.
Department of Defense, including U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, personnel are sheltering on ships just off the coast of the islands. They are ready to continue existing operations as soon as the storm passes.
FEMA remains in close coordination with VITEMA and the PREMA, and we encourage all residents to follow the direction of local and territorial officials.  
 
Safety
Be familiar with evacuation routes, have a family communications plan, keep a battery-powered radio handy and have a plan for pets. Visit www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov to learn these and other preparedness tips for tropical storms.

Know your evacuation zone and be sure to follow the direction of state, local, and tribal officials if an evacuation is ordered for your area.

If you have a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood policy, you may be eligible for reimbursement of actions taken to protect your property. Call your insurance agent to find out more.

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.  
 
For storm surge:
A Storm Surge Watch is issued when a tropical cyclone poses the possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline within the specified area, generally within 48 hours.
A Storm Surge Warning is issued when a tropical cyclone poses a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline within the specified area, generally within 36 hours.
 
Ongoing Recovery
FEMA continues efforts with nearly 30,000 federal personnel working to support the response and recovery to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, to include Federal Coordinating Officers in Texas, Florida, and Georgia supporting response and recovery efforts.

One week after the major disaster declaration for Florida following Hurricane Irma, more than $163.4 million in federal funds have been approved to help Floridians recover from the storm, and nearly 770,000 registrations have been received.
In Texas, three weeks after the federal disaster declaration, more than $1 billion in federal funds has been approved to help Texans recover from Hurricane Harvey.
If you have any questions, please contact FEMA’s Intergovernmental Affairs Division at (202) 646-3444 or at FEMA-IGA@fema.dhs.gov.