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Posts Tagged ‘Emergency Response’

Preparing for Hurricane Earl

September 2nd, 2010

As I write this, powerful Hurricane Earl is spinning in the Atlantic Ocean with winds of more than 125 mph, just off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  According to the experts at the National Hurricane Center, it’s expected to follow the coast up into Canada over the next several days. Although the storm remains offshore for now, hurricane watches and warnings have been issued for coastal areas along nearly the entire eastern seaboard.  As a precaution, some towns have ordered evacuations to ensure the safety and security of their residents. 

Click to watch Hurricane Earl move up the Atlantic Coast, thanks to our friends at NOAA.

The Corps is also preparing to respond in the event of a disaster, and we are putting many of our emergency management personnel on alert and have pre-positioned some of our personal along the Atlantic Coast.  Our role in any event like this is to assist the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA by coordinating and organizing public works and engineering-related support. Our response teams are available to support debris removal, purchase and delivery of essential commodities like water and ice, as well as to provide temporary emergency power, temporary housing, temporary roofing, infrastructure assessment, and support to urban search and rescue missions. 

I pray that Earl stays its course and heads away from the coast.  But should it decide to change course for the worse, our teams are standing by, ready to serve! 

Preparedness is a shared responsibility.  For tips on what you and your family can do to prepare for a hurricane, click here: http://www.ready.gov/america/beinformed/hurricanes.html 

Best, 

Van 

BUILDING STRONG®

Emergency Response ,

Corps Works with Interagency Response Team on Oil Spill

June 1st, 2010

From the beginning of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has worked closely with other national agencies, the States and others in response to this incident. The environmental consequences of this disaster are expected to be unmatched and unprecedented.

Recently, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority submitted an application requesting emergency authorization for a restoration project that could enhance the capability of some barrier islands to reduce the inland movement of oil from the spill site. Col. Al Lee, New Orleans District commander, approved the emergency permit to Louisiana for portions of this barrier island plan.

For more information about this permit decision please check out:
http://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/news/view.asp?ID=341

Assisting the nation in a time of disaster is something the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has always done and we stand ready to assist now, and in the future.

Emergency Response, Environment/Sustainability, Regulatory , , , ,

Help for Haiti

January 15th, 2010

The devastation in Haiti is, in a word, heartbreaking. I hope that you’ll join Paula and me in praying for the people of that nation, for those around the world who are still awaiting word on their loved ones, and for the thousands of volunteers, rescue teams, aid workers and service members who are there, or on their way to help.

At the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we are gearing up and ready to support as needed. We are plugged into the State Dept., USAID, Federal Emergency Management Agency and US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and are ready to assist however any of those organizations need us.

We do have four engineers deploying today to support, 1 civil, 1 structural, 1 electrical, 1 hydrological. We also have two 8-person teams from our South Atlantic Division office who are on alert and prepared to deploy. That office has also identified and is preparing additional structural engineers for possible deployment.

In addition, we’ve alerted the 249th Engineer Battalion, which provides emergency power, to be ready to go on a moment’s notice, and have our best subject matter experts for commodities, infrastructure, navigation and debris removal standing by, as well.

So many people are looking for a way to help, and if you would like to give, I encourage you to go to USAID’s website for a list of ways you can make a difference.

This situation will continue to develop in the coming days, weeks and months – and I am sure that our role will continue to grow. I’ll keep you posted…

Contingency Operations, Emergency Response, International and Interagency Services , ,

Levee Vegetation and Public Safety

June 11th, 2009

There is an Associated Press article out today that requires a direct response, because it is inaccurate in many ways. The article is about the Corps’ Levee Vegetation Policy, which has been in existence for decades.

First, let me just correct the record.

Error: The Corps ordered thousands of trees chopped down.

Fact: The Corps notifies levee project sponsors of operation and maintenance deficiencies, which may include vegetation, animal burrows, encroachments, and closure structures.  These deficiencies must be corrected to remain eligible in this voluntary program for federal rehabilitation and repair assistance following a flood. 

Error: The Corps “is on a mission to chop down every tree in the country that grows within 15 feet of a levee…..”

Fact: The mission of the Corps’ levee safety program is to make sure levee systems are reliable and do not present unacceptable risks to the public, property or the environment, with the emphasis on public safety.  The Corps has specific authorities for approximately 2,000 levees, or 14,000 miles across the country; not the 100,000 miles stated by the AP. 

Error: The anti-tree policy arose from criticism directed at the Corps after Katrina.

Fact: The Corps’ vegetation management standards are not new, and the Corps has considered them critical to flood damage reduction project reliability for decades. 

The bottom line is – Public safety is the number one priority of the Corps Levee Safety Program and the consequences of Operation and Maintenance issues, like having vegetation on levees, floodwalls or dams, go beyond the possibility of a breach or failure.  While vegetation and other encroachments can harm the structural integrity of the infrastructure, it can also obscure visibility for visual inspections, impede access for maintenance and inspection, and/or hinder emergency flood fighting operations. Operation and maintenance is a critical component to overall public safety.

I’ve seen levees with garages, storage sheds and pools built into them, and I’ve seen trees ripped out of a levee by flood waters.          

We’ve flood-fought levees where tree roots cause seepage through and under levees and where tree roots clogged critical drainage structures such as relief wells. We’ve even seen tree roots damage flood walls and steel sheet piling. Fortunately, we’ve been able to find these problems and intervene just in time with safety measures before the levee breaches but we must not rely on intervention, but provide greater reliability through well maintained infrastructure.

The bottom line with any levee system is that you are only as strong as your weakest link – so we must have clear policies and standards, which include vegetation management, consistently applied and enforced through continuous and periodic inspections and assessments.

The Corps’ policies on vegetation are based on available engineering and scientific data – and they have been validated with an Independent External Peer Review and Independent Technical Review.

Existing scientific literature doesn’t conclusively validate or invalidate our vegetation standards.  But we are looking into it – we are in the midst of a two-year research program to enable reassessment of our engineering-based understanding of the public safety consequences of vegetation on flood damage reduction projects.

Any change to current USACE vegetation management policy and standards will be based upon sound engineering and science, and will not adversely affect public safety – because that is our #1 priority.

Infrastructure, Levees , , , , ,

Flood Fighting on the Red River

March 31st, 2009

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to be fully engaged in the flood fighting efforts in the Upper Midwest our Nation. As our Soldiers and Civilians work around the clock, our thoughts are with the many families who have been impacted by this event.

We are doing everything we can to help cope with the rising waters. Our folks on the ground have been working very closely with the local, state and federal agencies to help protect communities in North Dakota and Minnesota in the Red River Basin. Beginning in the recent weeks leading up to the flooding, we have supplied nearly 10 million sandbags, more than 101 water pumps and overseen the construction of several miles of emergency levees and emergency levee raises to support the fight against rising waters. We currently have 170 Corps employees engaged in this response, including 10 Soldiers from our 249th Engineer Battalion who are working to supply emergency power to the region.

While the National Weather Service has announced that the water level has crested in one of the areas facing the most danger, Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., the danger has yet to pass. It will be days before the waters recede back to below flood stage levels, which is why engineers, officials and volunteers are all keeping a close watch on the emergency levees and sandbag levees that are being put under a tremendous strain as they hold back the waters of the Red River.

We will to continue to work with local, state and federal officials to do all we can to assist the residents of these impacted communities.

Emergency Response, Levees , , , ,

Returning Home

September 26th, 2008

Earlier this week, residents returned to their homes on Galveston Island for the first time since Hurricane Ike roared through the Texas coast. For many families, they came home to a scene of devastation, destruction, and loss. Please join me in praying that they will have hope for the future, wisdom as to what to do next, and strength for the long hard days ahead.

One of our teammates takes applications for Blue Roofs in Texas

One of our teammates takes applications for Blue Roofs in Texas

Returning home is the first step towards recovering from this challenging event. Their return would not be possible if not for the efforts of hundreds of dedicated men and women of our Corps Family across the nation who so worked hard with our federal, state, and local partners.

Together, we installed generators to provide critical power, delivered life-sustaining ice and water, and provided valuable temporary roofing and debris removal services and expertise.

To the volunteers who deployed to assist our Galveston teammates, and those back at home who carried a little more weight to continue your missions, I’m grateful for your hard work and determination. It’s moments and days like these that highlight why I am so honored to be a part of this great family.

We've contracted crews and more than 80 trucks to help clear interstate of debris

We've contracted crews and more than 80 trucks to help clear interstate of debris

We still have a long way to go to fully recover from Hurricanes Ike, Gustav and Katrina, but days like today serve as a reminder that together we can overcome anything!

Keep on BUILDING STRONG.

Emergency Response, Gulf Coast Recovery, Levees , ,

Bracing For Gustav

August 30th, 2008

Today is the 3rd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and we are busy readying for Hurricane Gustav! As people throughout the Gulf Coast brace for the storm, and take all the necessary precautions, we stand ready to support the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA in the many mission areas we have in disaster response: debris removal; buying and delivering water, ice and other critical necessities; providing temporary power, housing and roofing; infrastructure assessment; and support to urban search and rescue missions.

While a large portion of the Gulf Coast may face Gustav’s landfall, much of the Nation’s attention is focused on the storm’s threat to Southeast Louisiana. It’s important to understand that New Orleans now has the best Hurricane and storm damage reduction system in its history. The system is stronger than pre-Katrina. Many levees are now internally stronger, better constructed, armored with cement on the top to prevent dirt from washing away, and have improved floodwalls. There is stronger construction than before at Hurricane Katrina breach sites, and transition points between flood walls and levees have been strengthened.

In the New Orleans metropolitan area, the gates and temporary pumping stations built after Katrina at the mouths of the three outfall canals are ready. Computerized systems remotely monitor water levels in the canals, and interior pump stations have been repaired and improved.

Preparing additional protection in preparation for Hurricane Gustav

Preparing additional protection in preparation for Hurricane Gustav

As an innovative flood-fighting measure, to provide even more support, we are placing sand-filled HESCO baskets along an 1800-foot section of the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal and Lock’s west floodwall, to alleviate the risk of water pressure from potential high water levels in the canal.

 

We're doing everything we can to brace for Gustav!

We're doing everything we can to brace for Gustav!

We also have three contracts for light helicopter support to quickly deploy flood fighting teams, and an agreement with the Coast Guard, so that as soon as the weather clears, they’ll fly us around to survey the area for damage.

We are working closely with the parish and state leaders, the National Guard, and FEMA to protect the people of the Gulf Coast. I am confident that we are all much better prepared to respond to a storm today, than we were three years ago – and that is a direct result of the selfless, dedicated efforts of so many of you.

For those of you in the possible path of the storm, and the hundreds of volunteers who will deploy if needed to help with the flood-fight and recovery, please be safe. Our prayers are with you, and all who may be affected by Gustav.

Emergency Response, Gulf Coast Recovery, Levees , , , , , ,

Flooding in America’s Heartland

June 12th, 2008

Throughout the Midwest today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with state and local levee districts, emergency responders, elected officials and other federal agencies to coordinate flood fighting activities. Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa are among the hardest hit right now, and Missouri and Nebraska are on alert.

My thoughts and prayers are with the people who live in the affected areas, and with our teammates, who are once again on the scene when the Nation needs us.

Extreme flooding in Indiana

Extreme flooding in Indiana

As of today (June 12, 2008), a total of 1,676,700 sandbags and 79 pumps have been issued to support state requests for assistance. There are currently 152 of our dedicated employees engaged in the response effort, and I expect more are on their way.

We are also supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s efforts, by providing technical assistance for dam inspections and debris. In addition, we’re providing engineering and environmental expertise to FEMA’s housing planning team – which is an interagency group that works with the state to identify what housing options are available to meet the needs of that specific area.

In Iowa, we’ve really taken on a new and unique role when it comes to commodities, like tarps, drinking water or ready to eat meals. We’re helping state and local officials build their capabilities when it comes to ordering, delivering and distributing those goods. We’re coordinating with the state and local governments to provide temporary power to critical public facilities in Iowa, as well.

We’ve got a deep bench of seasoned pros who are already on this, and people coming out of the woodwork volunteering to help. I’m so proud to be a part of this team.

Emergency Response, Levees , , , , , ,