Readout of President Biden’s Conversations with FEMA and National Hurricane Center
This afternoon, President Biden convened conversations with the National Hurricane Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to discuss the Administration’s ongoing preparations for Hurricane Ida, which is projected to make landfall on the Gulf Coast as a dangerous major hurricane tomorrow on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall.
National Hurricane Center Director Kenneth Graham provided the President with a briefing on Ida’s projected path and reported that the Gulf Coast was already beginning to feel the effects of the storm. They talked about how Ida will likely be very strong and destructive, with dangerous, life-threatening storm surge and significant rainfall that would impact both coastal and inland areas. The President thanked the Hurricane Hunters, who fly the specially equipped aircraft into hurricanes to enable accurate forecasting, as well as the entire National Hurricane Center team.
The President then called FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell by videoconference. Administrator Criswell was in the National Response Coordination Center, the multiagency center that coordinates disaster response and prioritizes the allocation of Federal government resources. The President began by thanking the 200 Federal personnel on the watch floor who have been working nights and weekends for a long time to assist with the COVID-19 response, Tropical Storm Henri, the tragic flooding in Tennessee, other extreme weather events, and now Hurricane Ida. They discussed ongoing evacuation efforts of Parishes in the storm’s path, as well as the voluntary evacuation of New Orleans. Administrator Criswell told the President that 13 Urban Search and Rescue teams are in place to respond to the needs of people who are not able to get out. The President asked about preparations for nursing homes, and Administrator Criswell said that more than 100 ground ambulances and 20 air ambulances have been deployed to support evacuations of nursing homes in the storm’s path. They discussed the precautions that are being taken at the mega shelters the American Red Cross is opening to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including masking, rapid testing, and social distancing.
They also talked about the impact of anticipated hurricane force winds and concerns about widespread power outages, and Administrator Criswell described how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has prepositioned power restoration experts and hundreds of generators. The President acknowledged the significant assistance the utility sector is prepared to provide to help get the power back on as fast as feasible, though it may take time given the intensity of the storm. The President urged people to prepare thoroughly now, including by visiting Ready.gov, stocking up on supplies for their household, and following guidance from local authorities. The President concluded the call by reiterating his thanks to the FEMA team for its extraordinary efforts and recognizing the importance of the pre-positioning of resources, including FEMA’s deployment of an additional 500 emergency response personnel, one million meals, 1.6 million liters of water, and generators, and the Coast Guard’s proactive advance positioning of vessels for deep water search and rescue efforts.
Yesterday, President Biden spoke with the Governors of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to make clear that States have the full support of the Federal government to provide assistance as needed and to aid local emergency response efforts. The President approved an Emergency Disaster Declaration for the State of Louisiana, authorizing emergency preparation and protective measures, including direct Federal assistance such as power generation, air transportation assets, wildlife management assistance, and water management for all 64 parishes in Louisiana.