Tags: FEMA | brock long | hurricane harvey | slow developing | major disaster

FEMA Chief: Harvey a 'Slow-Developing Major Disaster'

CNN's "New Day"/Twitter

By    |   Friday, 25 August 2017 12:50 PM

FEMA Director Brock Long said Friday he is concerned that people are not heeding evacuation warnings that are being posted as Hurricane Harvey picks up strength on its way into Texas.

"Texas is about to have a very significant disaster," Long told CNN's "New Day" program. "If they have not [evacuated] their window to evacuate is rapidly coming to a close."

If people refuse to heed the warnings, Long stressed, "that's on them. The bottom line is they need to elevate and get into a structure that can withstand potentially category 3 winds from a hurricane."

Long said he is specifically "very worried" about Harvey's storm surge and the potential for coastal flooding.

There will be two aspects to the flooding expected from Hurricane Harvey, Long told CNN.

"The storm surge has the highest potential to kill the most amount of people and cause the most of damage," said Long. "On top of that, we are looking at a significant inland flood event over many counties, which is going to be a sizable event."

"The first is the coastal flood inundation which refer to as storm surge," he said. "This is wind-driven water that's going to encroach on the coastal barrier islands and go up the back bay inland areas, which is the most dangerous."

Then, over the next five days, there will be "copious amounts of rainfall, up to 25 inches possibly in some areas, with isolated higher amounts," said Long. "This is going to be a slow-developing major disaster event for the state of Texas."

The federal government cannot issue a mandatory evacuation order, said Long, as that must come on the local level.

"In Texas, local county officials are responsible for issuing evacuations," said Long. "I do not have the authority to issue any evacuation whatsoever."

Long, the former head of Alabama's Emergency Management Agency, said what causes him the most concern is the way Harvey is strengthening.

"The storm is getting stronger, the pressure is dropping, all indications from the National Hurricane Center that this is going to be the first major hurricane the nation has dealt with since 2005," said Long. "Right now FEMA is already in the state of Texas. We have pre-positioned incident management teams, life-saving, life-sustaining commodities. We have search and rescue teams in the state and we're ready to go to support our state partners."

Long said most likely in upcoming hours, President Donald Trump will start getting requests for presidential disaster declarations coming from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

"As soon as those come up, we're able to, the president has the ability, the authority to sign off on those to mobilize our support to the state government," Long said.

He said he's been in continuous contact with Trump and federal officials, and that the president is "giving me full authority in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate the federal assets down to the state and local level as soon as we're called upon."

Also appearing on MSNBC, Long stressed that Harvey will be a "disaster."

"What that means is your normal daily routine is about to be disrupted for multiple days, infrastructure and power will go off," Long said. "People need to be making final preparations to you know, to expect those kinds of things to happen. It's going to take time for the infrastructure to come back online, but we're prepared to support that effort."

The United States has not been hit by a major hurricane since 2005, said Long, and in many cases, people have never experienced the threat of a storm surge.

"It's the hazard associated with hurricanes that have the highest potential to cause the most amount of damage and kill the most amount of people," said Long. "Nobody lives to talk about their experience with storm surge."

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FEMA Director Brock Long said Friday he is concerned that people are not heeding evacuation warnings that are being posted as Hurricane Harvey picks up strength on its way into Texas.
FEMA, brock long, hurricane harvey, slow developing, major disaster
Friday, 25 August 2017 12:50 PM
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