National Geographic News
Tourists look at the clouds of Tropical Storm Karen in Cancun, Mexico.

Tourists observe the strong winds and waves created by tropical storm "Karen" at a beach in Cancun, Mexico, on October 3. Karen formed in the Caribbean sea near the Mexican peninsula of Yucatan.

Photograph by Alonso Cupul, European Pressphoto Agency

Willie Drye

National Geographic

Published October 4, 2013

State emergency management officials on the U.S. Gulf Coast have been assured that the recent shutdown of the federal government will not affect the Federal Emergency Management Administration's response to Tropical Storm Karen.

The storm is expected to come ashore late Saturday or early Sunday on the Gulf Coast. A hurricane watch has been issued from southern Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle.

A hurricane watch means that winds exceeding 74 miles per hour (119 kilometers per hour) are possible within 36 hours. Although Karen could strengthen into a hurricane as it approaches the Gulf Coast, forecasters aren't certain that it will maintain that strength until it makes landfall.

Meanwhile, emergency management agencies in the area are conferring with FEMA officials as they prepare for the storm.

A call to FEMA's External Affairs office in Atlanta was answered by a recording saying that its staff had been furloughed because of the federal government shutdown. Calls to FEMA offices in the Gulf Coast region were answered by staffers not authorized to speak on the record. But state emergency management officials said they are talking to FEMA personnel and the  federal agency is preparing to respond to the storm.

"Our director locally has been in touch with FEMA, and he's received every assurance that FEMA will support us," said Mike Steele, communications director for the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in Baton Rouge.

Samantha Plotkin, a spokesperson for the Florida Division of Emergency Management in Tallahassee, said her agency also has been conferring with FEMA officials to prepare for any necessary response after Tropical Storm Karen comes ashore.

As of 7 a.m., Tropical Storm Karen was about 335 miles (764 kilometers) south of New Orleans, moving north-northwest at about 10 miles per hour (19 kilometers per hour). Its peak winds were blowing at 60 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour), making it a strong tropical storm.

But Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said the storm will encounter dry air and atmospheric winds known as wind shear that will inhibit its strengthening as it moves northward.

Hurricanes draw their energy from warm water and warm, moist air. The dry air and winds blowing across the top of the hurricane will prevent it from intensifying, Blake said.

Matt Moreland, an emergency response meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Slidell, Louisiana, said New Orleans is under a tropical storm watch, meaning that winds of at least 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour) are expected in the area within 36 hours. The storm's effects will be felt late Friday night or early Saturday morning, he said.

Moreland said the storm could come ashore anywhere from New Orleans eastward to Panama City, Florida. New Orleans could see as much as four inches (10 centimeters) of rain from the storm, he said.

The area southeast of New Orleans near the mouth of the Mississippi River is under a hurricane watch, Moreland said. Plaquemines Parish and Saint Bernard Parish—both southeast of New Orleans—could see up to five inches (13 centimeters) of rain, he said.

Moreland said the Gulf Coast east of New Orleans is likely to see more severe effects from the storm. The storm could cause flooding and heavy winds along the coast from Mississippi to the Florida Panhandle, he said.

J Mac
J Mac

FEMA is Fugate's Folly. He has turned FEMA back into the same pathetic low moral Executive Retirement Agency that failed to respond to Hurricane Andrew.  

Management, Team Building and Communications (if you call employee threats, humiliation and tantrums communication) are skills he neglected to develop. His mantra and favorite conversation stopper is, "If you don't like it, find another job". The taunt is parroted now by senior management in nearly every memo.  The result is thousands of the most experienced FEMA Reservists took Fugate's advice and resigned. The Reservists who stayed are on a perpetual furlough and must remain in On Call alert and do FEMA work at home in a non-pay status or they will be fired. which, as I mentioned, is brow beaten into them regularly.  Since Katrina, FEMA has had much difficulty attracting first rate talent. No one  who can read, looks at FEMA seriously as a positive career step to have on your resume. FEMA seems to get the outcasts from other agencies.  Another management failure is putting the people in the wrong position and ignoring their strengths. The Firemen from all over the country who responded to call to help out after Katrina were sent to Atlanta, where the FEMA External Affairs Officer spent three day teaching them how to pass out flyers. The firemen complained they expertise was being wasted. The External Affairs Officer became upset and she berated the firemen extensively and questioned their manhood, their courage, and their dedication to FEMA and a citizens of America. Typical FEMA problem solving technique. The woman is still with FEMA, senior management could not find anything wrong with her work. She ahs been promoted and receives handsome bonuses every year.   

FEMA is a small agency, it's almost like a family. There are even two Org Charts. The Official Org Chart and the Relative Org Chart of who is related to who. The Relative Org Chart is the more important of the two. It is the quickest way to promotions with the least amount of work.

So is FEMA ready for the next big disaster?  No.

FEMA, internally, is a house of cards about ready to collapse.


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