Mounting disasters in the U.S. are spurring concern about the federal government’s ability to handle a storm season that’s projected to produce the most dangerous storm period since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Even before hurricane season officially begins June 1, the U.S. government office that leads the response to natural disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been grappling to help states deal with the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Disasters have been declared in all 50 states for the first time ever.
“They are not ready for a regular season, much less this,” said Robert Verchick, a Loyola University law professor in New Orleans, who wrote a book on the response to Hurricane Katrina. “I would be very surprised if FEMA can adequately respond to the kinds of floods or storms that are in the produced models right now. I think this summer we are going to be on code red.”
Democratic lawmakers are also questioning FEMA’s ability to handle hurricane season on top of the Covid-19 pandemic. They said in a letter to the agency in April that the response to coronavirus “has overwhelmed FEMA’s already thin resources.”
In addition to a steady increase in virus cases, now totaling more than 1.56 million in the U.S., “spring flooding season is now upon us, wildfire season is fast approaching, tornado outbreaks are starting to spread, a major earthquake could strike at any moment, and hurricane season — which is projected to be above average — is just around the corner,” wrote the Democrats, led by California Representative Jerry McNerney and Senator Kamala Harris.