FEMA and Other Federal Agencies Respond to Storm Henri
The emergency assistance agency is also helping Tennessee following the massive floods.
Federal agencies have been responding over the past few days to Hurricane Henri, which was downgraded to a tropical storm but still caused major disruptions in the Northeast.
The storm developed off the East Coast and while it was no longer a hurricane by the time it made landfall on Sunday in Rhode Island, it still brought high rainfall and winds and left tens of thousands of homes and businesses without power. This is the eighth named storm of the 2021 hurricane season.
“We have been closely monitoring Henri’s progress and making the necessary preparations,” said President Biden during an address late Sunday afternoon. “Fortunately, it’s no longer a hurricane; it’s been downgraded to a tropical storm. And we are taking it seriously, though, because of the size and the storm’s surge and the rainfall it’s producing. It’s also impacting an area of the country that has already experienced heavy rainfall over the past several days.” He approved emergency declarations for Rhode Island on Saturday and for Connecticut, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, New York and Vermont on Sunday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Sunday it will be helping states respond to and recover from the storm and it has positioned supplies, including water, meals and generators, in the affected areas. “We already have close to 1,000 people in the region right now doing resources such as swift water rescue teams, liaisons, some of our incident management assistance teams, they are all pre-positioned,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell on Fox News on Sunday. “I have individuals in with every state’s emergency operations center. We are ready to respond right now as soon as we identify what the needs are.” Until all the rain passes, “we won’t know the full extent of damage across the region.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a tweet he was briefed on the storm on Sunday, and thanked “FEMA staff and our federal partners for ensuring communities have the resources they need.” He encouraged everyone “to stay vigilant and follow guidance from local officials.”
Several other agencies have been part of the federal response for search and rescue, damage assessment and other recovery efforts.
Throughout the Northeast region the Coast Guard “deployed two MH-65 helicopters with [a] crew of four each from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City and one MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and crew of four from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City,” a spokesperson told Government Executive on Monday. “They were forward deployed to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and provided overflight and damage assessment following the storm. We had one additional public affairs officer deployed as well to the Boston area.”
The Coast Guard also had several teams from the Atlantic Strike Team and specialized teams in shallow water rescue ready to be deployed if needed. They were not formally requested, said the spokesperson.
The Army Corps of Engineers is also part of the response effort and its deployment numbers are “rapidly changing,” as it is still coordinating with FEMA on what the need is, said an agency spokesperson on Monday. “As of 10 a.m. today, we had 51 personnel deployed in support of [Facilities and Equipment Maintenance] Mission Assignments for Regional Activations, Temporary Power and Debris Management.” These personnel were sent to FEMA regions 1 (which covers Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) and 2 (which covers New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands).
As of Monday morning, more than 1,125 members of the National Guard from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island had been activated in response to Henri, a spokesperson for the National Guard Bureau told Government Executive. “The response efforts are funded by a combination of Title 32 (federal funds) and State Active Duty (state funds).”
The Defense Department said it has high-water vehicles ready to deploy if necessary. The Energy Department is communicating regularly with its industry, state and federal partners in regard to the Henri response, said a department spokesperson.
An Energy Response Organization was activated to manage the emergency response. Emergency responders are helping in FEMA Region 1’s response coordination center in Boston; FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C.; FEMA Region 2’s response coordination center in Colts Neck, N.J.; and the New York State Emergency Operation Center in Albany, said an Energy Department spokesperson. The department did not provide a number of personnel.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration shared the hazards and best practices that response crews and residents should be aware of in the aftermath of Henri.
Besides Henri, federal officials are responding to the floods in Tennessee over the weekend after record-breaking rainfall that has killed at least 21 individuals, with 40 missing.
Criswell spoke with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on Sunday evening to talk about the state's needs, said a press release from FEMA on Monday. Lee said on Sunday he will request a federal emergency declaration when an initial assessment of the damage is done. FEMA and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency started the assessment on Monday, Fox 17 reported.