Highway 90 westbound in Pass Christian, Miss. overflows with flooding waters early on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021. (Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

Gazebo Gazette

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal emergency aid has been made available to the state of Mississippi to supplement state, tribal and local response efforts to the emergency conditions in the areas affected by Hurricane Ida, beginning on Aug. 28 and continuing.

The President’s action authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, to save lives, protect property, public health and safety and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize and provide at its discretion, the equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.  Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance and reimbursement for mass care, including evacuation and shelter support, will be provided at 75% federal funding. This assistance is for Adams, Amite, Covington, Forrest, Franklin, George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Lamar, Lawrence, Lincoln, Marion, Pearl River, Perry, Pike, Stone, Walthall, Wayne and Wilkinson counties and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

As Hurricane Ida intensifies into a major storm in the Gulf of Mexico, FEMA, non-government organizations and federal agency partners continue to work alongside state, tribal and local officials to prepare and respond to the storm. The National Guard, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continue to provide support as needed.

“FEMA headquarters and regional operation centers are activated around the clock,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. “We’ve pre-positioned equipment and supplies throughout the states to ensure resources are in place. Our federal partners join us on the ground supporting the response to this dangerous hurricane,” she said. “This is the heartbeat of the federal family that has come together to support the people of Louisiana. I urge residents in the storm’s path to prepare now for significant impacts.”

Gulf Coast residents should listen to local officials, and if told to evacuate, do so immediately. For anyone going to a community or group shelter, remember to follow the latest recommendations for COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FEMA is fully operational in the COVID-19 environment, and the appropriate safety measures remain a priority to protect responders and residents from the virus.

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. approved emergency disaster declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi ahead of the storm’s landfall. These declarations help FEMA to respond rapidly and efficiently when states and individuals need aid after a disaster.

More than 2,000 FEMA employees are deployed to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, including seven FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams in Louisiana and Mississippi.

In addition, 13 Urban Search and Rescue teams are deployed. Through mutual-aid agreements, FEMA activated 100 ambulances and emergency medical service providers for post-storm evacuation support, as needed. Mobile Emergency Response Support is deployed for temporary mobile communications in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The American Red Cross is working with local officials from Texas to Florida to assess and open shelters as needed. In Louisiana, the Red Cross, state officials and other community groups are planning to open dozens of shelters for at least 16,000 people. Additional cots, blankets, comfort kits and ready-to-eat meals are pre-positioned in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Red Cross is also supporting hospitals and has pre-positioned blood products ahead of the storm to help ensure patients have continued access to lifesaving blood transfusions. The organization has more than 500 volunteers on the ground, with hundreds of others on standby.

The Louisiana. National Guard is activated and has staged high-water vehicles, boats, engineer work teams and other resources in 13 parishes prior to the storm’s landfall.

  • FEMA established a staging area in Alexandria, La., which includes supplies, equipment and personnel ready to rapidly deploy post-storm, as needed.
    • FEMA has pre-positioned 1 million meals, 1.6 million liters of water and 163 generators for power restoration.
  • A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) team is deployed for power restoration.
    • USACE activated three of its Emergency Operations Centers to provide technical assistance and management of flood-fighting supplies and equipment.
    • USACE planning and response teams for debris, temporary roofing, infrastructure assessment, temporary housing and temporary power are standing by to assist as needed.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard has fixed and rotary aircraft in Mobile, Ala. and Houston, along with shallow water boats in preparation for the storm.
    • The ports of New Orleans and Houma, La., will close on Saturday evening.
    • Additionally, the Coast Guard is ensuring that barges are cleared along the Mississippi coastline and New Orleans.
  • Three U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Disaster Medical Assistance Teams are in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi for ongoing COVID-19 response.
    • HHS is pre-staging Incident Management Teams  and deployed representatives to FEMA’s emergency operation centers.
  • The Department of Energy is working with private sector power providers, power restoration crews from nearby states are pre-positioned to restore as soon as the storm clears.
  • The Department of Homeland Security  announced that absent exceptional circumstances, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection will not conduct immigration enforcement at locations where disaster and emergency relief related to this storm is being provided. This includes shelters or sites distributing emergency supplies, food and water.

As federal agencies continue to mobilize staff and supplies, Gulf Coast residents need to complete storm preparations today. Residents should listen to and follow instructions from local officials. Preparedness information can be found on Ready.gov and Listo.gov

Thomas J. McCool has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal response operations in the affected areas.