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FEMA Gets Injection of Disaster Mitigation Funds as Active Storm, Wildfire Seasons Loom

As NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts another above-average hurricane season, the White House said this week that state, local, and tribal governments are receiving $1 billion in disaster mitigation funds to prepare for extreme weather and other events.

“Now it’s time to get ready for the busiest time of the year for disasters in America: hurricane season in the south and east, and the fire season out west,” President Biden said while visiting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Response Coordination Center in Washington on Monday. “I’m here today to make it clear that I will insist on nothing less than readiness for all of these challenges. We’re going to make sure the men and women of FEMA and our other key agencies have everything they need — everything they need, because they’ve got an incredibly difficult job.”

NOAA said last week that experts “do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020,” but 2021 could still see “a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms.” Last year, storms blew through the list of pre-determined names, necessitating the use of the Greek alphabet for the season’s remaining tropical storms and hurricanes. Seven of the storms claimed 86 lives and caused more than $40 billion in damage.

The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through November 30. NOAA said it expects three to five major hurricanes (categories 3, 4 or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher) during this season.

“Now is the time for communities along the coastline as well as inland to get prepared for the dangers that hurricanes can bring,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “The experts at NOAA are poised to deliver lifesaving early warnings and forecasts to communities, which will also help minimize the economic impacts of storms.”

On the wildfire front, the National Interagency Fire Center said in a May 1 outlook that above normal significant fire potential is anticipated for the southwest, expanding northward into the Great Basin and Rocky Mountain Geographic Areas through August.

“Central Oregon into southeast Washington are likely to have above normal significant fire potential beginning in June with portions of the Coast Ranges, Sierra, and Cascades in California increasing to above normal in June and July and continuing through August,” the outlook said, noting that “climate outlooks indicate warmer and drier than normal conditions are likely for much of the Plains and West into summer continuing and exacerbating drought there.”

The administration also announced “the development of next-generation climate data systems at NASA to help understand and track how climate change is impacting communities.” NASA said Monday its Earth System Observatory, which is at the beginning of formulation, “brings together two different kinds of radar systems that can measure changes in Earth’s surface less than a half-inch” in order to “measure some of the planet’s most complex processes such as ice-sheet collapse and natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides.”

The NASA-ISRO synthetic aperture radar “can assist planners and decision makers with managing both hazards and natural resources in the future.”

“Over the past three decades, much of what we’ve learned about the Earth’s changing climate is built on NASA satellite observations and research,” said NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson. “NASA’s new Earth System Observatory will expand that work, providing the world with an unprecedented understanding of our Earth’s climate system, arming us with next-generation data critical to mitigating climate change, and protecting our communities in the face of natural disasters.”

The $1 billion announced by the administration for disaster mitigation will come through FEMA this year for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, double the allocation last year.

“It’s going to help communities, including those too often overlooked, and it’s going to invest in resilience and better protect themselves to serve for other climate events that we’re going to be facing,” Biden said at FEMA.

“When disaster strikes, we have to be there to protect and also help people recover. And so it’s not about red states and blue states. You all know that. It’s about having people’s backs in the toughest moments that they face, ready with food, water, blankets, shelters, and more,” the president added. “…Being there to help clear roads, rebuild Main Streets, and so that the families can get back to their lives — that’s what FEMA does every single day. As my mother would say, ‘They’re doing God’s work.’”

COLUMN: Rethinking Disaster Readiness Before a Potentially Active Summer

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a speciality in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, anti-Semitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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