WASHINGTON – At the direction of President Obama, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is continuing to support areas impacted by severe weather from the Central Plains to the Southeast U.S. FEMA, through its National Response Coordination Center in Washington D.C. and regional offices in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, and Denton, Texas, is closely monitoring the severe weather and remains in close contact with impacted and potentially impacted States and Tribes.
Today, President Obama declared a Major Disaster for the State of Arkansas as a result of the severe weather. This declaration makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Faulkner County. Federal funding also is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency work.
Residents and business owners in Faulkner County, Arkansas who sustained losses can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.
Yesterday, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate travelled to Arkansas to survey tornado damage in and Vilonia, where he spoke with state officials to ensure that the state’s needs were being met.
FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams are deployed to Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Mississippi with additional liaison officers in Kansas and Alabama. FEMA deployed the Texas Task Force 1 Urban Search & Rescue Team as well as the White Incident Support Team to the State of Arkansas. An additional team based in Nebraska is also on alert and prepared to deploy if requested.
“Severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding continue to impact communities today,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “It’s important that anyone in potentially impacted areas continue to follow the direction of local officials.”
FEMA remains in close contact with the National Weather Service, which is forecasting a risk of severe weather this afternoon and into tonight for portions of the lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys into the central eastern Gulf States. Several tornadoes, large hail and straight line damaging winds are likely.
Severe weather can occur anytime, day or night, and residents should be prepared to take action immediately. For the latest weather forecasts, visit www.weather.gov.
When natural disasters, such as tornadoes and severe storms strike, the first responders are local emergency and public works personnel, volunteers, humanitarian organizations, and numerous private interest groups who provide emergency assistance required to protect the public's health and safety and to meet immediate human needs.
Severe Weather & Tornado Safety Tips
Maintain an emergency supply kit both at home and in the car to help prepare for power outages or impassable roads. Visit www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov to learn more about how to be better prepared and how to protect your family during emergencies. Find severe weather and tornado preparedness tips at http://www.ready.gov/severe-weather.
Follow the instructions of state and local officials, and listen to local radio or TV stations for updated disaster response and evacuation information. Residents can listen to NOAA Weather Radio and local news to monitor for severe weather updates and warnings. The National Weather Service is the source for tornado watches and warnings.
Become familiar with the terms used to identify severe weather and discuss with your family what to do if a watch or warning is issued. Terms used to describe tornado and other severe weather hazards include the following:
For a flash flood:
A flash flood watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; monitor NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
A flash flood warning: A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.
For a severe thunderstorm:
A severe thunderstorm watch means that a severe thunderstorm with large hail and/or damaging winds is possible in your area.
A severe thunderstorm warning means that a severe thunderstorm with large hail and/or damaging winds is occurring or imminent, move indoors immediately.
For a tornado:
A tornado watch means a tornado is possible in your area.
A tornado warning means a tornado is either occurring or imminent, take shelter immediately.
Residents are encouraged to prepare for what to do during a tornado and plan where you will go if a tornado watch is issued in your community:
Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection.
If underground shelter is not available, go to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor of a sturdy building.
Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.
Vehicles, trailers and mobile homes are not good locations to ride out a tornado. Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.
If shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
Plan to stay in the shelter location until the danger has passed.
Wireless Emergency Alerts are now being sent directly to many cell phones on participating wireless carriers' networks. These alerts are sent by public safety officials such as the National Weather Service and designed to get your attention and to provide brief, critical instructions to warn about imminent threats like severe weather. Take the alert seriously and follow instructions. More information is available on Wireless Emergency Alerts at www.ready.gov/alerts.
The American Red Cross Tornado Warning and Alert app has an automatic audible siren that goes off when NOAA issues a tornado warning, provides notification when a warning expires and allows users to let other know they are safe. For more information visit www.redcross.org.
Be Safe After the Storm
Only enter areas that have sustained damaged after local officials have said it is safe to do so. Always follow the direction of local officials.
Because tornadoes often damage power lines, gas lines or electrical systems, there is a risk of fire, electrocution or an explosion.
Here are some safety precautions that could help you avoid injury after a tornado:
Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.
Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible, rather than candles to light homes without electrical power.
Inspecting the damage:
After a tornado, be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home.
In general, if you suspect any damage to your home, shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions if you know how to do so.
If it is dark when you are inspecting your home, use a flashlight rather than a candle or torch to avoid the risk of fire or explosion in a damaged home.
If you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker if you have not done so already.
If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company, the police or fire departments, or State Fire Marshal's office and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to your house until you are told it is safe to do so.
For more information on severe weather and tornado preparedness tips, visit www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov to find out how you can protect your family during emergencies.
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FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.