President Joe Biden’s administration was already dealing with a disaster of its own making in Afghanistan. Now, the White House is in emergency mode as it scrambles to prepare for a natural disaster barreling toward the U.S. Gulf Coast in the form of Hurricane Ida.
An emergency declared
President Biden issued a formal emergency declaration for Louisiana on Friday in order to better support local efforts to prepare for the storm’s expected impact.
The president’s order reportedly authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to not only coordinate with local and state authorities, but also pre-position federal resources that will be needed in the aftermath of Ida.
The order also frees up federal funding that can be used by FEMA to help those impacted by the hurricane, as well as help cover some of the costs of recovery once the powerful storm has passed.
A conference call with the governors
In addition to issuing the emergency declaration, President Biden also participated in a conference call Friday with the governors of the three Gulf Coast states most likely to suffer the full brunt of Hurricane Ida’s landfall — Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi — as well as relevant federal officials.
According to a White House readout, the discussion covered the potential for damages caused by “life-threatening storm surge, heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds,” as well as efforts to prepare resources and evacuation plans ahead of time.
“FEMA is pre-positioning food, water, generators, and other resources in the region. It has more than 2,000 personnel in the affected region and has activated another 500 to provide response support,” the White House said.
There was also some discussion Friday of the wrinkle that COVID-19 has added to the emergency response efforts, and ways in which the states could help mitigate the potential spread of the virus in shelters through the use of masks, sanitizers, and social distancing.
“On the call,” the White House said, “the President made clear that impacted communities will have the full support of the Federal government to augment state and local emergency response efforts.”
A look ahead
It remains to be seen just how much damage will result from Hurricane Ida, but considering that it is expected to make landfall as a Category 4 storm — and the incredibly destructive Katrina was only a Category 3 storm when it hit the coast, according to the Associated Press — it’s safe to assume that the devastation could compare to what was experienced in southern Louisiana 16 years ago to the day on Sunday.
With any luck, the Biden administration’s handling of this impending domestic catastrophe will be worlds better than its latest actions on Afghanistan. We can only hope for the best.