Brock Long is the new director of FEMA (the author holds 3 FEMA certifications) and, unlike the massively unqualified FEMA director under George Bush II, the one who was so bad that Cuba was offering assistance during Katina, Director Long is highly qualified. Bush’s Brownie was completely unqualified (as was Bush), tried to resign the morning Katrina was reported to be closing in on New Orleans and did resign three weeks later.

No one can really deal well with such a disaster as we see about to happen in Texas when Hurricane Harvey hits, but Director Long has long served in local and state emergency management so he will be as effective as anyone can be.

FEMA pre-positions vast stockpiles of supplies in relatively safe areas, ready to respond quickly to disasters.

Hurricane Harvey

There are multiple models of just what is about to happen in Texas as Hurricane Harvey strengthens in the warm waters of the Gulf but one thing for certain is that global warming has raised the temperature of the water and all experience, as well as all computer models, say that even slightly warmer water means a much more destructive hurricane.

NASA’s Global Precipitation Mission satellite flew over Hurricane Harvey August 24 at 6:30 p.m. when sustained winds reached 86 MPH. The GPM satellite has a microwave imager (radar) which spotted bands of intense rainfall in the clouds.

The Goddard Profiling Algorithm analyzed these results as averaging about 2 inches per hour (35-inches maximum) but the story was still increasing in intensity. (GPM is a joint effort between NASA and the Japanese space agency.)

All models show a major disaster is imminent for the Gulf region of Texas but they differ in just how bad it will be.

But emergency management workers both local and FEMA must prepare for the worst and some predictions call for as much as 35 inches of rain over a week-long attack from Hurricane Harvey which could hit land, return to the Gulf to rebuild strength, then head to Texas again, over and over for as much as a week.

Trump response

President Trump has started out well with an early reassuring tweet.

But local residents are not responding well, with many refusing to evacuate despite the prediction for a potentially disastrous weather event which could leave some areas of Texas expected to be completely uninhabitable for weeks.

Reluctant evacuees

As a former emergency management coordinator, I know that the biggest problem faced by coordinators is getting people to evacuate.

Pets used to be the biggest problem - until recently the evacuation plans made no effort to rescue the pets and people often elected to remain and protect their pets instead of evacuating.

Fortunately, that has changed recently and many emergency management agencies have changed their policies and made accommodation for pets a priority. That has greatly improved the chances that people will also evacuate.

One local official in Texas said of the threat from Hurricane Harvey that it was time to notify those people who are refusing to evacuate that they should write their social security numbers on their arms with permanent markers - the implication being that it will be easier to identify bodies. This is actually a common tactic when faced with a potential disaster and people refusing to evacuate. Such individuals pose the most dangerous threat to emergency workers who will try to rescue them in the aftermath of a disaster, often at risk to their own lives.

In PA, we used to tell them to use toe-tags and offered to distribute them.

One of the major problems the Trump administration faces is the fact that even this far into the first term there are many, many posts still unfilled. With only a partial team in place, this has to weaken the ability of the Trump administration to respond to their first natural disaster.