BoatUS “CAT” Team Still Hard at Work
Salvage operations after Hurricane Irma continue in Florida Keys
MARATHON, Fla., October 11, 2017 – A month after Hurricane Irma struck Florida, the BoatUS Catastrophe (“CAT”) Field Team is still hard at work. Here, in Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor, salvage crews from TowBoatUS Marathon raise a sunken sailboat and navigation hazard off the harbor bottom. Since the CAT Team’s arrival in Florida the day after the storm struck, hundreds of recreational vessels have been recovered. After initially blanketing the state with BoatUS CAT Team crews traveling in recreational vehicles, recovery efforts are now focused on the Florida Keys where work is expected to be completed in about two weeks.
For a look at Hurricane Irma’s damage, go to: https://goo.gl/5oJVpC.
Downpours to ease drought, raise risk of flash flooding from Texas to Iowa
AccuWeather Global Headquarters – October 05, 2017 – AccuWeather reports drenching downpours and locally gusty thunderstorms will affect parts of the Plains and Midwest into Friday.
Rainfall from the storms will be significant enough to ease dryness and short-term drought conditions but could fall at so fast of a rate to cause minor flash and urban flooding.
Heavy rain caused several roads to flood across Oklahoma on Wednesday afternoon, including near Oklahoma City.
“Into Friday, the heaviest rain will extend from northeastern Kansas to southern Iowa and and part of northwestern Illinois,” AccuWeather Lead Storm Warning Meteorologist Eddie Walker said.
“A general 2-4 inches is likely,” Walker said. “However, locally higher amounts are possible.”
People should be prepared for travel delays around Topeka, Kansas, Kansas City, Missouri, and Des Moines, Iowa, or essentially along I-35 in this zone.
Lesser rain will occur farther east in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
In terms of severe weather, a few storms can become severe at the local level in parts of northwestern Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas on Friday afternoon and evening.
The most common impact from the storms will be strong wind gusts. However, there may be some incidents of hail. A couple of isolated tornadoes are possible, especially as the storms first develop.
The rainfall will impact agriculture in the region.
“On one hand, the rain will slow the corn harvest in some areas and the planting of winter wheat in others,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.
“On the other hand, the rain will also help to put some moisture back into the ground, even if it falls at a fast pace.”
Winter wheat needs to sprout rapidly and develop deep roots to survive the cold weather in the months ahead.
The area being affected by the downpours has received between 10 and 80 percent of normal rainfall since Sept. 1.
As cooler air advances to the east, it will help to pull Nate northward from the Gulf of Mexico this weekend.
This press of cool air and tropical moisture from Nate will drench much of the eastern third of the nation later this weekend into early next week.
By Alex Sosnowski, Senior Meteorologist for AccuWeather.com
Irma to move inland, spread rain across northeastern US at midweek
AccuWeather Global Headquarters – September 11, 2017 – AccuWeather reports after unleashing flooding across the Southeast, Irma’s rain will spread northward toward the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic this week.
Irma was a major hurricane for many days leading up to and during its devastating trek through the Caribbean and into the United States, but the storm will continue to undergo rapid weakening over the coming days.
Moisture from this once-powerful storm will continue northward, moving into part of the Midwest and Northeast.
“The main circulation of Irma will move into the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states later this week, and may even linger for part of the upcoming weekend,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun. “The sunny start to the week will end generally cloudy.”
The approach of tropical weather will first be marked by a high cloud cover, making for bright but filtered sunlight in the mid-Atlantic during the first half of the week.
By midweek, more overcast conditions are expected to take over as the chance of precipitation increases.
Residents in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh; Charleston, West Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Philadelphia; and New York City will have to dodge showers on occasion during the second half of the week.
“There will still be enough moisture for scattered showers, but it will in no way be a washout or bring a flash flood threat to the area,” said Rathbun. “However, those attending any outdoor events will want to grab a jacket or umbrella.”
Irma’s winds will largely dissipate during its trek over land; only breezy conditions are expected to accompany any rainfall by the end of the week.
This wet weather could stick around for the weekend, potentially threatening sporting events.
“There remains uncertainty on what affect the leftover circulation of Irma will have on Hurricane Jose, and if any impact to the East Coast is possible,” Rathbun explained.
While several college football match ups could face rainy conditions on Saturday, Sunday is more likely to be a dry day in the Northeast for professional football events.
By Jordan Root, Meteorologist for AccuWeather.com
Ohio National Guard’s 269th Combat Communications Squadron continues to provide support to Virgin Islands following Hurricane Irma
Story by Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Stahl
ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands — A six-Airman team from the 269th Combat Communications Squadron, based in Springfield, Ohio, continues to provide tactical communications support to the Hurricane Irma relief efforts here.
After a more than 16-hour flight to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, the team from the 269th CCBS was redirected to St. Thomas, as it was determined their services were more critically needed there.
“The JISCC (Joint Interoperability Site Communications Capability) team from the 269th CCBS was forward deployed to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Lt. Col. Samantha Adducchio, the 269th commander.
“They are supporting the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) (Region) VI headquarters on St. Thomas.”
Since arriving in St. Thomas on Sept. 10, the team has set up satellite and telephone communications as well as radio frequency links.
Within the first 24 hours of operations, the team enabled communications services to five key agencies on the Islands supporting 70,000 residents.
They repaired the communications links to the Virgin Islands FEMA Headquarters, enabling interagency coordination and expanded situational awareness outside of the local St. Thomas area.
They extended services to the local hospital and Department of Health, enabling personnel tracking and status of welfare. Communications were extended to the police commissioner and the Special Forces units that are providing search and recovery and extraction services, as well as general community security services. They are currently extending telephone services to the tactical air traffic control team overseeing medical air evacuations and airfield management.
As of Sept. 13, the team had extended services to the Red Cross site to help with shelter management, personnel accountability and resource requirements for the impacted community.
Airmen tested and are completing the high frequency network that will enable communications between the Islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and Puerto Rico.
Moving forward, the team will continue to extend and improve communications services to civil and governmental agencies, which will greatly help with resource management and fulfilling the needs of the community.
“Your 269th CBCS crew is here in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands doing great work. (The) citizens here are incredibly resilient and very thankful for all the help. No doubt they will come through Irma stronger than ever,” said Capt. Craig Conner, 269th Combat Communications Squadron detachment commander.
“The team that we are working with here on St. Thomas is excellent and they could not have better attitudes.”
Ohioans Giving Tips After Hurricane Irma
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine offered giving tips to Ohioans who plan to donate following the damage caused by Hurricane Irma.
“Hurricane Irma has left a lot of destruction in her path and the people of Florida and the Caribbean will need help to recover. The people of Ohio are generous, and it’s important that their donations go where they intend,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We’re offering these tips to help people make informed decisions, avoid scams, and make sure their donations are used the way they would like.”
Tips for making charitable donations after a natural disaster:
- Carefully review donation requests. Do some research to make sure your donation will be used as intended. After a natural disaster or national tragedy, some sham charities pop up to take advantage of people’s generosity. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites have been vetted. The first donation request you find may not be the best.
- Evaluate charities using resources such as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office (or the offices of other state attorneys general), IRS Select Check, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar.
- Beware of “look-alike” websites or accounts. Be skeptical of charities or groups with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. They may be intended to confuse donors. If you receive a message from an organization asking for a donation, confirm that the request truly is from the organization, and not an impostor, by contacting the organization directly or visiting its website.
- Be careful when giving to newly formed charities. Some charities that are formed shortly after a natural disaster or tragedy have good intentions but lack the experience to properly handle donors’ contributions. Established charities are more likely to have experience to respond following a tragedy and to have a track record that you can review.
- Review claims carefully. Some groups sell merchandise online and claim that “100 percent of the proceeds” will benefit a specific charitable purpose, but this claim does not necessarily mean 100 percent of the sales price will go toward the cause. Contact the organization to ask how much of each purchase will support the cause. If the organization cannot give you an answer, consider donating another way.
- Contact a charity before raising money on its behalf. If you want to set up a fundraiser for a particular charity, contact the organization in advance and determine how you can properly collect donations.
Signs of a potential charity scam include:
- High-pressure tactics.
- No details about how your donation will be used.
- Refusal to provide written information about the charity.
- Organizations with names that sound similar to other better-known organizations.
- Requests for donations made payable to a person instead of a charity.
- Offers to pick up donations immediately versus in the mail or online.
Those who suspect a charity scam or questionable charitable activity should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office investigates and takes enforcement action against charitable fraud.
USDA Recovery Efforts for Hurricane Irma
USDA Reminds Individuals and Small Businesses USDA Offers Disaster Assistance Programs to Help
WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds rural communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses impacted Hurricane Irma that USDA has programs that provide assistance in the wake of disasters. USDA staff in the regional, state and county offices that stand ready and eager to help.
“In recent weeks, millions of Americans have been affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and the wild fires in the west,” Secretary Perdue said. “USDA employees have been working tirelessly and will continue to stand ready to help those in need. As we head down the path to recovery, I am encouraged by the resilience of America’s farmers, ranchers and the American people as a whole that we can come together and get through this trying time.”
USDA’s Operations Center is activated 24/7 keeping the Secretary and USDA’s leadership team informed. An Incident Management Team supports the USDA Operations Center and will remain in effect through both Hurricane Harvey recovery and Hurricane Irma’s response and recovery. USDA has important roles in both response and recovery to hurricanes and stands ready to support the American people who rely on it each day. In a continuing effort to better serve the public, USDA partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other disaster-focused organizations to create the Disaster Resource Center website. This central source of information utilizes a searchable knowledgebase of disaster-related resources that are powered by agents with subject-matter expertise. The Disaster Resource Center website and web tool now provide an easy access point to find USDA disaster information and assistance.
USDA also encourages residents and small businesses in impact zones to contact the following offices to meet their individual needs:
Property and Shelter
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency is managing all emergency housing assistance, when floods destroy or severely damage residential property, USDA Rural Development can assist with providing priority hardship application processing for rural single family housing. Additionally, under a disaster designation, USDA Rural Development can issue a priority letter for next available USDA multi-family housing units at properties across the country. Many USDA Rural Development programs can help provide financial relief to rural communities hit by natural disasters by offering low-interest loans to rural community facilities, rural businesses and cooperatives and to rural utilities. More information can be found on the Rural Development website.
Food Safety and Food Assistance
Severe weather forecasts often present the possibility of power outages that could compromise the safety of stored food. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recommends that consumers take the necessary steps before, during, and after a power outage to reduce food waste and minimize the risk of foodborne illness. FSIS offers tips for keeping frozen and refrigerated food safe and a brochure that can be downloaded and printed for reference at home. Owners of meat and poultry producing businesses who have questions or concerns may contact the FSIS Small Plant Help Desk by phone at 1-877-FSIS-HELP (1-877-374-7435), by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 24/7 online at: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/svsp/sphelpdesk.
The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) coordinates with state, local and voluntary organizations to provide food for shelters and other mass feeding sites. Under certain circumstances, states also may request to operate a disaster household distribution program to distribute USDA Foods directly to households in need. In addition, FNS may approve a state’s request to implement a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) when the President declares a major disaster for individual assistance under the Stafford Act in areas affected by a disaster. State agencies may also request a number of disaster-related SNAP waivers to help provide temporary assistance to impacted households already receiving SNAP benefits at the time of the disaster. Resources for disaster feeding partners as well as available FNS disaster nutrition assistance can be found on the FNS Disaster Assistance website.
Crop and Livestock Loss
The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers many safety-net programs to help producers recover from eligible losses, including the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) and the Tree Assistance Program. The FSA Emergency Conservation Program provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters. Producers located in counties that received a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. Compensation also is available to producers who purchased coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting. USDA encourages farmers and ranchers to contact their local FSA office to learn what documents can help the local office expedite assistance, such as farm records, receipts and pictures of damages or losses.
Producers with coverage through the RMA administered federal crop insurance program should contact their crop insurance agent. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days.
Community Recovery Resources
For declared natural disasters that lead to imminent threats to life and property, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can assist local government sponsors with the cost of implementing recovery efforts like debris removal and streambank stabilization to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. NRCS staff is coordinating with state partners to complete damage assessments in preparation for sponsor assistance requests. NRCS can also help producers with damaged agricultural lands caused by natural disasters such as floods. The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial assistance to repair and prevent excessive soil erosion that can result from high rainfall events and flooding. Conservation practices supported through EQIP protect the land and aid in recovery, can build the natural resource base and might help mitigate loss in future events.
USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides support for disaster education through the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). EDEN is a collaborative multi-state effort with land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension Services across the country, using research-based education and resources to improve the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters. EDEN’s goal is to improve the nation’s ability to mitigate, prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters., EDEN equips county-based Extension educators to share research-based resources in local disaster management and recovery efforts. The EDEN website offers a searchable database of Extension professionals, resources, member universities and disaster agency websites, education materials to help people handle a wide range of hazards and food and agricultural defense educational resources.
For complete details and eligibility requirements regarding USDA’s disaster assistance programs, contact a local USDA Service Center. More information about USDA disaster assistance (PDF, 118 KB) as well as other disaster resources is available on the USDA Disaster Resource Center website.
Irma’s flooding rainfall, tornado threat to expand from Florida to Georgia, Tennessee
AccuWeather Global Headquarters – September 11, 2017 – AccuWeather reports a fter blasting the Florida Peninsula over the weekend, Irma will track inland across the southeastern U.S., threatening flooding, damaging winds and severe weather over a large area.
Irma will put many lives at risk well inland from the coast. Residents in northern Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina should anticipate severe impacts from Irma.
Irma will continue to travel inland across northern Florida, Georgia and Alabama into Tuesday, continuing to weaken in the process.
Wind gusts of 60 to 80 mph will spread from Florida to southern Georgia and southeastern Alabama Monday.
“The tropical-storm-force winds should expand outward, especially on the east side, to over 300 miles on Monday,” AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.
Occasional gusts between 40 and 60 mph will be felt across eastern Tennessee, northern Alabama and Georgia, including the cities of Atlanta; Knoxville, Tennessee; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; and Augusta, South Carolina.
Wind of this magnitude can down trees and power lines and cause damage to weak structures.
People could face power outages, some of which may be lengthy. Now is the time to make sure flashlights are in working order and stock up on extra batteries.
Downed trees can also lead to road hazards for motorists. Alternative routes may need to be taken for those who must travel.
Irma’s winds will cause water to pile up along the northern Florida, Georgia and Carolina coasts through Monday, inundating coastal communities with several feet of water, including Jacksonville, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; and Charleston, South Carolina.
Irma will dissipate to a tropical depression and eventually a tropical rainstorm over Alabama and Tennessee.
While widespread damaging winds will become less of a concern farther inland, the threat for flooding will mount as Irma’s rain expands.
Irma will bring a heavy swath of rain that will trigger urban and river flooding across the Southeast and into the Tennessee Valley through the middle of the week.
A widespread 2 to 4 inches of rain can fall, with locally higher amounts.
Heavy rain will bring an increased risk for flash flooding and mudslides across the southern Appalachians as Irma’s moisture surges into the mountains.
Small streams and rivers could overflow out of their banks and flood neighboring land and homes. Motorists will need to watch out for road washouts.
“What is left of Irma is expected to slow down and perhaps stall for a time in Tennessee and Kentucky,” Kottlowski said.
This amount of rain will loosen the soil and will make it easier for wind gusts to topple trees in some areas.
In addition to heavy rain, some areas will have to worry about quick tornado spin-ups within Irma’s outer rain bands to the northeast of the storm’s center.
“These short-lived tornadoes will continue to develop across parts of South Carolina and Georgia on Monday,” Kottlowski said.
These type of tornadoes are especially dangerous due to their quick formation and dissipation. Residents will need to quickly take shelter should one form in the area. Heed all severe storm and tornado-related warnings.
During the second half of the week, Irma’s rain will spread northeastward into the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic.
By Jordan Root, Meteorologist for AccuWeather.com
Secretary Perdue Urges State Foresters to Demand Congress Fix Fire Funding Problem
(Washington, D.C., September 20, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today urged State Foresters to join in calling on Congress to address the way the U.S. Forest Service is funded. Currently, the agency has to borrow money from prevention programs to combat ongoing wildfires. Secretary Perdue believes Congress should treat major fires the same as other disasters and be covered by emergency funds so prevention programs are not raided. Secretary Perdue made his remarks earlier today at the National Association of State Foresters’ annual meeting in Charleston, West Virginia.
“Every one of you has a member of Congress, and you all are well-respected in your states and in your industry. You’ve got influence there,” Perdue told the State Foresters. “I want to implore you to leave this meeting and just write a note to your Congressional delegation saying, ‘Please support the permanent fire funding fix so the U.S. Forest Service can manage its forests in a way to get ahead of these forest fires.’”
Last week, wildland fire suppression costs for the fiscal year exceeded $2 billion, making it the most expensive year on record. Wildfires have ravaged states in the west, Pacific Northwest, and Northern Rockies regions of the United States this summer. Currently, the fire suppression portion of the Forest Service budget is funded at a rolling ten-year average of appropriations, while the overall Forest Service budget has remained relatively flat. Because the fire seasons are longer and conditions are worse, the ten-year rolling fire suppression budget average keeps rising, chewing up a greater percentage of the total Forest Service budget each year. The agency has had to borrow from prevention programs to cover fire suppression costs. Secretary Perdue’s proposal would ensure both fire suppression and prevention efforts would receive the funding they need, and he hopes the State Foresters will join his call for Congress to adopt his solution.
Farmers and Ranchers Affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma Granted Extra Time, Procedures, to Document and Claim Disaster Losses
WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2017 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced special procedures to assist producers who lost crops or livestock or had other damage to their farms or ranches as a result of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Also, because of the severe and widespread damage caused by the hurricanes, USDA will provide additional flexibility to assist farm loan borrowers.
“The impact is shocking and will be felt for many months,” said Secretary Perdue. “In addition to efforts being made on the ground to assist producers, we have taken a hard look at our regular reporting requirements and adjusted them so producers can take care of pressing needs first and mostly deal with documentation and claims later. President Trump’s directive is to help people first and deal with paperwork second. And that’s what USDA is doing.”
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), is authorizing emergency procedures on a case-by-case basis to assist impacted borrowers, livestock owners, contract growers, and other producers. The measures announced today apply only to counties impacted by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-determined tropical storm, typhoon, or hurricane, including Harvey and Irma that have received a primary Presidential Disaster Declaration and those counties contiguous to such designated counties.
Financially stressed FSA farm loan borrowers affected by the hurricanes who have received primary loan servicing applications may be eligible for 60 day extensions. Full details are available at https://go.usa.gov/xRe8V.
A more complete listing of all of the special farm program provisions is posted at https://go.usa.gov/xRe8p.
Among the actions announced today are lengthened deadlines for certain provisions under the Marketing Assistance Loan (MAL) program, the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program (FSFL), and the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP), the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP). Emergency grazing may also be authorized under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for up to 60 days.
In addition, the deadlines to file a loss for the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP) are extended, and special provisions are provided for “acceptable proof of livestock death and inventory for livestock losses.”
Farmers and ranchers affected by the hurricanes are urged to keep thorough records of all losses, including livestock death losses, as well as expenses for such things as feed purchases and other extraordinary costs because of lost supplies and or increased transportation costs.
Producers with coverage through USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) administered federal crop insurance program should contact their crop insurance agent for issues regarding filing claims. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days. The Approved Insurance Providers (AIP), loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well trained in handling these types of events. For more information see https://www.rma.usda.gov/news/stormdisaster.html.
As part of its commitment to delivering excellent customer service, RMA is working closely with AIPs that sell and service crop insurance policies to ensure enough loss adjusters will be available to process claims in the affected areas as quickly as possible.
In anticipation of flooding due to Hurricane Harvey, RMA took several proactive steps to ensure the efficient and reliable delivery of the crop insurance program. RMA authorized the use of emergency loss adjustment procedures to streamline certain loss determinations on specific crops and accelerated the adjustment of losses and issuance of indemnity payments to policyholders in all Texas and Louisiana counties impacted by Hurricane Harvey. RMA is reviewing the need for additional measures in response to Hurricane Irma.
USDA encourages all farmers and ranchers to contact their crop insurance agents and their local FSA office, as applicable, to report damages to crops or livestock loss. To find the FSA office nearest you, please visit https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app. Additional resources to help farmers and ranchers deal with flooding and other damage may be found at www.usda.gov/disaster.
Agriculture Secretary Perdue Travels to West Virginia
(Washington, D.C., September 19, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will travel to West Virginia September 20th to give remarks at the National Association of State Forester’s Annual Meeting, host an Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force meeting, and tour the Green Mining Model Business Program.
Secretary Perdue Speaks to National Association of State Foresters
Note: Just last week, wildland fire suppression costs for the fiscal year have exceeded $2 billion, making 2017 the most expensive year on record. As the Forest Service passed the $2 billion milestone, Secretary Perdue renewed his call for Congress to fix the way the agency’s fire suppression efforts are funded – this issue will be a central focus of his speech to the National Association of State Foresters.
Censky & McKinney Senate Committee Hearing
(Washington, DC, September 19, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today gave high marks to Steve Censky and Ted McKinney for their joint appearance before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. President Donald Trump has nominated Censky to service as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, while McKinney is the president’s choice to be the very first Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. The two await approval of the entire U.S. Senate before beginning work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Secretary Perdue issued the following statement:
“Today we saw two nominees who are experienced, prepared, and capable of providing the steady leadership we need at USDA, and we can’t wait to get them on board. We have accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time in our department, but we need Steve Censky and Ted McKinney to join the team as we face serious challenges in agriculture in the coming months and years.
“With producers in many states just beginning to assess the damages and losses from back-to-back hurricanes – and with wildfires continuing to rage in large swaths of the country – we will need Steve Censky’s counsel to help navigate the landscape. And as Congress continues work on the 2018 Farm Bill, his guidance and input will be invaluable. Likewise, as we continue USDA’s mission of feeding an ever-growing world population, we will need Ted McKinney to be the unapologetic advocate of American agriculture as we expand U.S. access to international markets. He will be the one who wakes up every morning asking where he can sell more American products to foreign consumers. I trust that the Senate will confirm them both in a speedy fashion.”
2017 Atlantic hurricane season is far from over; US remains at risk for additional strikes
AccuWeather Global Headquarters – September 19, 2017 – AccuWeather reports additional hurricanes, beyond that of Jose and Maria, are likely over the Atlantic and may threaten the United States for the rest of the 2017 season.
Hurricane season runs through the end of November, and it is possible the Atlantic may continue to produce tropical storms right up to the wire and perhaps into December.
“I think we will have four more named storms this year, after Maria,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.
“Of these, three may be hurricanes and one may be a major hurricane,” Kottlowski said.
The numbers include the risk of one to two additional landfalls in the United States.
As of Sept. 18, there have been four named systems that made landfall, including Harvey and Irma that made landfall in the U.S. as Category 4 hurricanes. The other two tropical storms were Cindy, near the Texas/Louisiana border in June, and Emily, just south of Tampa, Florida, at the end of July.
Jose will impact the coast of the northeastern U.S. much of this week; Lee and Maria are in progress over the south-central Atlantic.
Lee will likely remain at sea and is not expected be a threat to the U.S. or any land areas.
However, major hurricane Maria will have direct impact on some of the islands of the northern Caribbean. Maria will, at the very least, have indirect impact on the U.S. Maria has the potential to reach the middle or upper part of the U.S. coast next week.
On average, strong west to northwest winds with cooler and drier air tend to scour tropical systems out of the western Atlantic during October and November.
However, this year, AccuWeather meteorologists are concerned that these winds may not occur until later in the autumn or may be too weak to steer tropical threats away from the U.S.
The warm weather pattern that has developed over the Central states and expanded into the eastern U.S. is a product of that development.
Driving this warm weather pattern is a large area of high pressure, centered near Bermuda. The clockwise flow around this system will pump warm, humid air northward from the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic.
Tropical storms and hurricanes that brew will get caught up in the flow around this high pressure area.
While interruptions in this flow and the warm and humid pattern are likely in the northeastern U.S., it will generally persist in key tropical development areas well into October.
“When we get a pattern such as this, we usually have two to three named storms in October and can have one in November or December,” Kottlowski said.
U.S. interests from the Gulf of Mexico through the Atlantic Seaboard should check in frequently on the latest in the tropics during this active season.
While past hurricanes in October have no bearing on what will happen this season, there have been some damaging hurricanes during the middle of the autumn in the eastern and southern U.S. These include Hazel in 1954, Wilma in 2005, Sandy in 2012 and Matthew in 2016.
By Alex Sosnowski, Senior Meteorologist for AccuWeather.com
Major Hurricane Maria to lash Puerto Rico with life-threatening flooding, damaging winds
AccuWeather Global Headquarters – September 19, 2017 – AccuWeather reports Major Hurricane Maria will continue to rip a path of destruction over the islands of the northeastern Caribbean Sea into midweek.
Maria will threaten lives and cause devastation in areas hit and missed by Irma’s worst less than two weeks earlier.
According to Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather, “There is no comparison between what Puerto Rico got before with Irma and what it will get this time with Maria. This is a disaster in the making. All parties in Puerto Rico and the nearby islands need to know how serious this threat is. The damage done by wind gusts from the last storm (Irma) of 50 to 60 mph will pale in comparison to winds that may reach 140 from Hurricane Maria.”
“It is possible that parts of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands may become uninhabitable for weeks or longer due to the destruction that Maria will cause,” Myers said.
On Monday evening, Maria strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane with 160-mph (257-km/h) winds on its way toward the northeastern Caribbean Sea, making it the second Category 5 storm of the season.
The last time there were two or more Category 5 hurricanes in the same season was in 2007 when Dean and Felix occurred. Prior to this year, 2007 was also the last time two hurricanes made landfall as a Category 5.
Residents should prepare for widespread tree damage, days to weeks of power outages, structural damage and limited food and water at the hands of a major hurricane. Well-constructed homes may sustain major roof, window and siding damage.
“During Tuesday night and Wednesday, St. Croix, St. Thomas, Culebra, Vieques and Puerto Rico will take a direct hit and end up with much more damage, and perhaps catastrophic damage when compared to Irma,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
Maria could sustain Category 5 strength with winds greater than 157 mph (253 km/h) as it crosses Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“Homes, businesses and other structures will be significantly damaged or destroyed,” Myers said.
In addition to winds from a major hurricane, Puerto Rico is bracing for widespread, life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides due to the islands steep terrain and the likelihood of more than a foot (350 mm) of rain.
“Total rainfall of 6-12 inches (150-300 mm) will be common on the islands of the northeastern Caribbean with local amounts topping 20 inches (600 mm),” Sosnowski said.
Coastal inundation from storm surge will reach 6-10 feet (1-3 meters) on some of the islands.
The size of the eye wall and core of the highest winds are much smaller, when compared to Irma. The intense winds only extend outward from the center by about 30 miles (48 km).
“The eye wall from Maria passed directly over Dominica Monday night,” Sosnowski said.
“However, mostly tropical-storm-force winds were felt on the adjacent islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Montserrat from this small but intense hurricane.”
As Maria encounters Puerto Rico, the structure of the storm may change. The hurricane may grow in diameter.
Small craft should remain in port and cruise and cargo ships should avoid the area with seas topping 25 feet (8 meters) in the vicinity.
“With Irma stripping much of the vegetation in the northern Leeward and Virgin Islands, there is a much greater risk of flash flooding and mudslides even if the eye wall of Maria passes by to the southwest,” Sosnowski said.
Even a brush with the storm’s outer spiral bands could cause more damage as debris will get tossed around, and any trees weakened by previous storms may get snapped.
Hurricane Irma illustrates how accurate forecasts, improved communication can help save lives during disasters
Cleanup efforts are likely to be hindered, while crews may be forced to suspend power restoration efforts.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti will feel the effects of Maria on Wednesday and Wednesday night. The island of Hispaniola will experience tropical storm conditions with torrential rain, dangerous surf and the potential for damaging wind gusts. Given the current forecast track, the worst conditions on Hispaniola will be in the Dominican Republic.
“Interaction with Puerto Rico could alter the track of the Maria,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.
“If Maria tracks farther southwest than expected, then conditions may be more severe not only in the Dominican Republic but also Haiti.”
The severity of the situation over the areas devastated by Irma will depend on the storm’s exact track. A wobble farther to the north would be another catastrophic blow to the British Virgin Islands and St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Those that have been left homeless and do not have a means of leaving the islands will be at the mercy of the rain and wind. Debris can become flying projectiles during the storm, threatening to inflict bodily harm on anyone who is outdoors.
“After Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas will face major impact from Maria,” Sosnowski said.
Residents in these areas should already be gathering non-perishable food, batteries, flashlights, water and other necessities in case of lengthy power outages.
Seas and surf will remain dangerous on the northern shores of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola through Friday. Additional heavy, gusty squalls are also likely on these islands to end the week.
“AccuWeather estimates that Maria could reduce the GDP in Puerto Rico [$101.3 billion] by 10 percent by causing $10 billion in damage and have similar devastating impacts on other islands,” Myers said.
Maria is predicted to cause major economic impacts in Puerto Rico:
A major hit to tourism, which makes up 6 percent of Puerto Rico’s GDP as of 2006, is predicted by AccuWeather.
Devastation of crops is likely, as the agriculture sector is vulnerable to impacts from land-falling hurricanes. Agriculture makes up 0.8 of a percent of Puerto Rico’s GDP.
While it is too early to say with certainty whether Maria will have a direct impact on the mainland United States, all interests along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and Canada should monitor the hurricane’s progress during the coming week.
Meanwhile, Lee continues to struggle in the far eastern Atlantic and is not expected to impact land.
The tropical Atlantic is likely to remain active through much of October and into nearly the end of autumn.
By Renee Duff, Meteorologist for AccuWeather.com
Secretary Perdue to Tour Houston Area Impacted by Hurricane Harvey
(Washington, D.C., September 20, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will travel to Texas tomorrow and Friday, September 21st and 22nd, to survey agricultural damage from Hurricane Harvey. The Secretary was invited to go to Texas by Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and will be joined by U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) and other members of the Texas Congressional delegation.
Forest Service Wildland Fire Suppression Costs Exceed $2 Billion
Secretary Perdue Renews Call for Congress to Fix “Fire Borrowing” Problem
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 14, 2017 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that wildland fire suppression costs for the fiscal year have exceeded $2 billion, making 2017 the most expensive year on record. Wildfires have ravaged states in the west, Pacific Northwest, and Northern Rockies regions of the United States this summer. As the Forest Service passed the $2 billion milestone, Perdue renewed his call for Congress to fix the way the agency’s fire suppression efforts are funded.
“Forest Service spending on fire suppression in recent years has gone from 15 percent of the budget to 55 percent – or maybe even more – which means we have to keep borrowing from funds that are intended for forest management,” Perdue said. “We end up having to hoard all of the money that is intended for fire prevention, because we’re afraid we’re going to need it to actually fight fires. It means we can’t do the prescribed burning, harvesting, or insect control to prevent leaving a fuel load in the forest for future fires to feed on. That’s wrong, and that’s no way to manage the Forest Service.”
Currently, the fire suppression portion of the Forest Service budget is funded at a rolling ten-year average of appropriations, while the overall Forest Service budget has remained relatively flat. Because the fire seasons are longer and conditions are worse, the ten-year rolling fire suppression budget average keeps rising, chewing up a greater percentage of the total Forest Service budget each year. The agency has had to borrow from prevention programs to cover fire suppression costs. Perdue said he would prefer that Congress treat major fires the same as other disasters and be covered by emergency funds so that prevention programs are not raided.
“We’ve got great people at the Forest Service and great procedures and processes in place,” Perdue said. “We can have all of that – the best people, the best procedures, and the best processes – but if we don’t have a dependable funding source in place, then we’ll never get ahead of the curve on fighting fires.”
This fiscal year, Congress appropriated additional funding above the ten-year average – almost $1.6 billion total – to support Forest Service firefighting efforts, but even that amount has not been enough. With three weeks left in the fiscal year, the Forest Service has spent all of the money Congress appropriated for fire suppression, which means the agency has borrowed from other programs within its budget to meet this year’s actual fire suppression costs.
Continuous fire activity and the extended length of the fire season is driving costs. At the peak of Western fire season, there were three times as many uncontained large fires on the landscape as compared to the five-year average, and almost three times as many personnel assigned to fires. More than 27,000 people supported firefighting activities during peak Western fire season. The Forest Service has been at Preparedness Level 5, the highest level, for 35 days as of September 14, 2017. Approximately 2.2 million acres of National Forest system lands have burned in that time.
“We are breaking records in terms of dollars spent, acres of National Forest land burned, and the increased duration of fires.” said Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke. “Our firefighters are brave men and women, who risk their own lives to protect life and property. We must give them every opportunity to do their jobs effectively through better management of the forests in the first place.”
Both Perdue and Tooke have traveled recently to areas of the country besieged by wildfires. Secretary Perdue visited Montana with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke near the end of August, receiving an assessment from Forest Service personnel on the ground at the Lolo Peak Fire. Chief Tooke was in Oregon earlier in September, when he visited firefighters, communities, and local and state decision-makers. Perdue said he wants to embrace Good Neighbor Authority, which permits contracting with states to perform watershed restoration and forest management services in National Forests.
“We are committed to working together, with federal, state, and local officials, to be good stewards of our forests,” Perdue said. “We want to make Good Neighbor Authority more than just a slogan. We want to make it work for our forests, so that they work for the taxpayers of America.”
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains world-renowned forestry research and wildland fire management organizations. National forests and grasslands contribute more than $30 billion to the American economy annually and support nearly 360,000 jobs. These lands also provide 30 percent of the nation’s surface drinking water to cities and rural communities; approximately 60 million Americans rely on drinking water that originated from the National Forest System.
Secretary Perdue to Survey Hurricane Damage in Georgia, Florida, and Texas
(Washington, D.C., September 14, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will travel to Georgia, Florida, and Texas over the next week to survey agricultural damage from hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The Secretary was invited to Georgia by Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, to Florida by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and to Texas by Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.
Ohio National Guard engineers to deploy in support of Hurricane Irma relief
COLUMBUS, Ohio — More than 20 Airmen from the 200th RED HORSE Squadron are scheduled to depart from the 179th Airlift Wing, located at the Mansfield Lahm Airport, to support Hurricane Irma relief efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The 200th RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer) Squadron will support hurricane relief efforts by establishing Disaster Relief Bed-down Systems (DRBS), deployable kits that are capable of providing basic housing and life support facilities such as tents, showers and latrines, for up to 500 people.
The 200th RED HORSE Squadron, headquartered in Port Clinton, Ohio, is equipped to provide engineering, construction and logistics capabilities worldwide on very short notice. More than 600 RED HORSE Airmen have deployed in the last year to five countries, six states and one territory in support of missions around the world.
For current information and stories on the Ohio National Guard visit:
The Buckeye Guard http://ong.ohio.gov/BuckeyeGuard.html
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU