According to recent information from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2011 was a record year for weather/climate disasters, with the highest number of events exceeding $1 billion in damages since 1980. Last year there were three times more disaster declarations than in a normal year, including tornadoes and severe spring storms, significant flooding throughout much of the country, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
This meant that it was also a year which tested the Corps’ disaster response capabilities, with personnel and teams responding to 22 events worldwide in 2011, the busiest year for the program since 2005, when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast. USACE spent approximately $1 billion on emergency operations this year.
In 2011, some 2,400 USACE personnel and 22 Planning and Response Teams (PRT) deployed in support of FEMA and the National Response Framework. Their missions included temporary power, debris removal, installation of concrete pads for temporary housing units, and temporary replacement of critical public facilities such as schools, health clinics and fire stations.
The districts in our Mississippi Valley Division and Northwest Division were also heavily engaged throughout most of the past year managing record high water levels along the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Red and Souris rivers, for a much longer duration than normal. Our flood risk reduction systems were operated at their maximum capacity, some for the first time ever. The systems performed as designed, and thousands of communities were spared. We are working now to make necessary repairs and restore these systems to their original operating capacities.
Whether operating in the aftermath of floodwaters, tornados, hurricanes or any other disaster, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a vital part of the federal team helping communities recover and rebuild.