Entries in Hurricane Irene (37)


Napolitano on Disaster Relief Fund: 'We Do Not Have Enough Money'

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano expressed frustration Thursday that Congress has not moved swiftly enough to pass a supplemental funding bill for FEMA in this year of wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes.

“The fight we’re in now is to get money for the disaster relief fund.  We do not have enough money -- given the number of disasters we’ve had this year -- to finish the fiscal year, and to do all the things we have to do,” Napolitano said Thursday at the Aspen Institute.

“I had to have a meeting with my FEMA director about things we will have to stop in places around the United States, unless Congress signals that they’re ready to put a supplemental into the Disaster Relief Fund,” Napolitano said.

There are competing packages in the Senate and House about how much extra money should be provided to FEMA and the agency’s Disaster Relief Fund.  The White House has said that Hurricane Irene will cost $1.5 billion through 2012.  The Office of Management and Budget has said there is an additional $5.2 billion needed for non-Hurricane Irene disaster needs.

“It means existing joint field offices in disaster areas around the country, where we’re doing recovery,” Napolitano said of the implications of the budget crunch and what services may cease without the funding.  “It means public assistance for things like rebuilding fire stations and schools that were destroyed in the tornadoes in the spring and the flooding in the spring, and what we’ve seen recently.  It may even mean going back as far as some of the investments that we made to repair Katrina.”

According to DHS officials, the Disaster Relief Fund currently stands at $351 million.  After Hurricane Irene and deadly spring tornadoes and severe flooding in the Dakotas, the fund has been strained.  In recent weeks, the fund has dropped almost $450 million.  DHS officials said that on Aug. 30, the fund stood at just under $800 million.

FEMA had to place funding restrictions on longer-term repair and rebuilding projects from previous and current disasters because the fund had dropped below $1 billion.  FEMA officials say that when the Disaster Relief Fund has been under $1 billion they have used a funding method called “Immediate Needs Funding,” which prioritizes the immediate needs of disaster survivors, states, and communities during disasters, so that FEMA can continue its focus on response and urgent recovery efforts without any interruption."

“The survivors that are eligible for assistance are still getting funds.  Individual assistance programs were not affected by this, nor was any protective measures, or any debris clearance or any project that had already been approved,” said FEMA Director Craig Fugate said at a White House briefing on Aug. 29, 2011 after Irene had passed up the East Coast.

“The only thing that we have postponed is new projects that are permanent work that had not been started when we go into immediate needs funding.  And that is to ensure that we still have funds to do this response, continue to meet the needs of the survivors of the previous disasters, while supporting the initial response to Hurricane Irene,” he said.

Similar funding limitations went into effect in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2010.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Thousands Evacuated in Second Round of Flooding

Scott Olson/Getty Images(BINGHAMTON, N.Y.) -- More than 100,000 residents living along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania are being forced to evacuate Thursday after officials said they expected even more rain to fall on the water-logged tristate area.

Residents of Wilkes-Barre and Kingston were ordered to leave by 4 p.m.

"I'm moving out of my first floor because if [the river] goes 38 feet, I'm going to have five feet on my first floor," Plainsville resident Beverly Sabol told ABC News affiliate WNEP-TV as her family emptied her house. "Thirty-eight projection? ... Where am I going to go?"

After the Northeast was inundated with rain as Hurricane Irene made its way northward a few weeks ago, Tropical Storm Lee dumped more heavy rain and caused floods Thursday.

Forty river gauges are in for major or record flooding, and historic flooding is expected in eight rivers throughout the region, including the Delaware and Passaic Rivers. Ten states are under flood watches, with warnings from Virginia to New Hampshire.

In Binghamton, N.Y., the Susquehanna broke a flood record and flowed over retaining walls. Emergency responders worked quickly to get residents who had not evacuated to leave their homes.

"We're still trying to get everybody out to a safe spot. Life is more important than people's properties as far as I'm concerned," firefighter Jason Delanoy said.

"It's a little scary but I do know that the emergency crews have been taking good care of everybody so far," resident Charlie Pritchett told ABC News affiliate WSYR-TV. "At least where we're at, they're ready to evacuate. They're ready to take care of everybody. Our parents live at the top of the hill so we're moving to the top of the hill with the kids and the dog."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Reid Proposes $6 Billion Stand-Alone Disaster Aid Bill

Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Noting that the natural disasters have come “fast and furious” this summer, causing many Americans to suffer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Wednesday that he will propose a free-standing bill that would provide $6 billion in relief funds.

“I don’t see how we -- this great nation we have -- can stand on the sidelines while our people are suffering.  We should get relief to people when they need it,” Reid said, mentioning the damage in Joplin, Missouri, the effects of hurricanes Irene and Lee, and the recent earthquake in Virginia.

The money for the bill would come from the Homeland Security appropriations bill, Reid said.

“We need to get this relief funding to the American people as quickly as we can,” he said.  “And we’re going to do that.”

Reid took a swipe at some of his Republican colleagues, most notably House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who early on said that any relief funds needed to be offset by cuts to other parts of the federal budget.

“Some of my Republican colleagues are trying to -- I was going to say something that was vulgar, and I’m not going to do that -- are trying to cater to the Tea Party by holding up relief efforts.  For example, Rep. Cantor suggested that we should hold up disaster relief to meet the Tea Party’s demands.  Fortunately, all Republicans don’t agree,” Reid said.

Cantor, who last month insisted that any new money for federal disaster relief be offset by spending cuts, issued a written statement on Wednesday regarding Reid’s stand-alone disaster assistance bill.  Cantor said he’s waiting for a specific request from President Obama and is awaiting details of Reid’s request.

“The House will act on a request for such disaster assistance as soon as it is made by President Obama,” Cantor said.  “Though details remain vague, it is being reported that Majority Leader Reid plans to move an unprecedented stand-alone measure that includes up to $7 billion in FEMA disaster funds for next year in the coming weeks.  I would ask Leader Reid to provide members of the House with the details of his request and a breakdown of what immediate funding is needed for each of the specific disaster areas listed above, so that the House can appropriately act on any legislation passed by the Senate.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Vermont Artist Helps Community Rebuild after Hurricane Irene

ABC News(WILMINGTON, Vt.) -- Ann Coleman has traded in a paintbrush for a broom.

The Wilmington, Vt., artist lost her art gallery when Hurricane Irene, on its last legs after battering the East Coast, walloped the state last week.  Her nearly $400,000 investment now lies in ruins more than two miles downstream.

"I wish I had flood insurance," Coleman said, "but I couldn't afford it."

The art gallery, once a prominent fixture on the city's main street, is now an empty space.  The storm caused the worst flooding in the state in 84 years, washing away bridges and roadways and cutting residents off from the outside world.

Because she and her husband are both self-employed, neither of them can collect unemployment.

"Our slate has been wiped clean literally," she told ABC News.  "People kept giving me condolences. ... I took a picture and then my eyes went back to where my building was supposed to be.  There was no yellow there and it was like it's gone.  It's completely gone."

She and her husband decided not to spend time thinking about their own losses and focused on their neighbors.

"It seems selfish not to do that," said her husband, Joe Coleman, whose real estate business was also ruined by the deluge.  "If our building were still there and we needed help, everyone would be helping us."

"Our generator, we were going to use it because we were out of power at home," Ann Coleman told ABC News.  Instead, she gave it to a neighbor.  Coleman is also giving away vegetables from her backyard and doling out emotional support.

She and Joe say they barely have enough time to pick up the pieces of their own lives.

"Everybody has helped us along the way, so do unto others as you would have them do unto you," she said.  "It's all about doing things and being the best you can be.  We'll keep on keeping on."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Disaster Relief Funding: Parties Spar Over FEMA Appropriations

Damage from flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene is seen near the Irving gas station at the junction of Route 4 and Route 100 in Killington, Vermont on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011. Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite preliminary damage estimates for Hurricane Irene ranking in the billions of dollars, additional funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency could get caught up in the gridlock of partisan budget battles.

A Democratic leadership aide said Wednesday that it is “highly unlikely” Congress will reach an agreement on supplemental appropriations for the agency in the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, the “natural place for additional disaster relief funding.”

Instead, the aide said that any disaster relief funding will likely be attached to the stopgap funding bill that must pass through Congress by the end of September. Unless, that is, by some miracle both houses of Congress pass all of their appropriations bills -- a legislative long shot.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said earlier this week that any additional disaster funding would have to be offset by spending cuts -- a position that could be a tough sell for congressional Democrats.

“Are House Republicans willing to shut down the federal government in order to satisfy their demands for offsets on disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Irene?” asked the aide, who did not want to be identified.

FEMA announced last weekend that the agency had less than $800 million in its bank account, forcing it to halt long-term projects such as rebuilding roads and schools in order to focus on the immediate needs of Hurricane Irene victims.

“We are going to find the money. We’re just going to need to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so,” Cantor said on Fox News Monday.

Cantor’s comments were met with harsh criticism from the White House and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who noted that emergency supplemental appropriations were “historically the way disaster relief funding has been handled.”

In June the Republican-controlled House passed a bill that would give FEMA an additional $1 billion for this fiscal year and increase the agency’s funds by $700 million for fiscal year 2012. The bill reduces grants for clean-energy vehicles in order to make up for the additional disaster relief funds -- a move the Democrat-controlled Senate does not support and has not passed.

With Republicans’ renewed insistence on balancing any additional FEMA funding with equal spending cuts, there is little chance Congress will reach a compromise and appropriate additional funds before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Any supplemental disaster funds will then have to be tucked into the next continuing budget resolution, which Congress will have to pass before Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown.

Despite this lack of congressional appropriations, federal officials insist FEMA will meet the needs of all disaster victims, including those from Hurricane Irene, those from floods earlier this year along the Mississippi River Valley, and those from tornadoes in Missouri and Alabama.

“We’re going to make sure that we respond as quickly and effectively as possible,” President Obama said Monday. “And we’re going to keep it up as long as hurricane season continues.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Maya Angelou Upset over MLK Memorial Inscription

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Poet Maya Angelou says the inscription on the newly unveiled Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial makes the civil rights leader look like an “arrogant twit.”

The official dedication to the memorial was postponed due to Hurricane Irene, but the monument on the National Mall is open to visitors.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Angelou took aim at the inscription, which reads “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.”  The inscription paraphrases King’s famous comments delivered at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1968.

In February 1968, two months before he was killed, King said, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.  And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Angelou told the Washington Post Tuesday that the omission of “if” in the inscription changes the meaning of King’s words.

“The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit,” Angelou told the Washington Post.  “He was anything but that. He was far too profound a man for that four-letter word to apply.”

Angelou is a member of the memorial’s “Dream Team,” a group of celebrities who donated their resources and time to the memorial’s construction. She was also a personal friend of Dr. King.

“He had a humility that comes from deep inside. The ‘if’ clause that is left out is salient. Leaving it out changes the meaning completely,” she told the paper.

Angelou, 83, went on to say that the inscription “minimizes the man.” It is one of 14 quotes carved on the monument.

Emails to the King Center seeking comment about the memorial’s inscription were not returned.

The 30-foot-tall monument’s inspiration came from a line in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered 48 years ago on the National Mall during the March on Washington: “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

Visitors can walk to the main memorial through the “Mountain of Despair,” a large rock cut in two. At the center of the memorial stands the “Stone of Hope,” with a statue of King on the far side, overlooking the Tidal Basin. Encircling the monument are marble walls on which 14 of King’s most famous quotes from his speeches, sermons and writings are etched.

But missing from the quotes lining the memorial is his iconic “I Have a Dream” line. The architects say they chose to not include the line since so much of the memorial was already based on the speech, and they wanted to highlight his other celebrated passages.

The memorial was 15 years in the making, beginning with a resolution signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton to establish a memorial “honoring the life, the dream and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” on the National Mall.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


After Hurricane Irene, 3.3 Million Americans Still in the Dark

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- More than 3.3 million Americans in Hurricane Irene's wake are still in the dark, and power outages are spread out over 13 states and Washington, D.C.

The number of outages is down sharply, however, from the 8 million people who were knocked off the grid by Irene's weekend rampage. Power companies said Tuesday that electricity should be restored to most people by Wednesday or Thursday.

Zerline Hughes and her two children have been living without power in the nation's capital since early Sunday morning.

"We were prepared, we just weren't prepared for this long," Hughes said. "We knew something was coming and even though I personally didn't think it was going to hit D.C. hard, I knew to put everything in place so that it was in easy reach....We weren't one of the thousands of families rushing to the grocery stores and the Home Depots to stock up."

While Hughes was prepared with food, water and flashlights, Robert Richardson, owner of, says the majority of people are not.

"If you live anywhere on the East Coast you should have at least five to seven days of supplies in your house," Richardson told ABC News. "Bad things happen. I'm not trying to scare people or anything like that, but you should always be prepared for something like this."

Richardson advises that people prepare for an emergency in the same way they would get ready to go camping.

"If you have gone camping before try and think of the kind of things you would bring on a camping trip where you don't have any power or access to water," he said. "Basically, after this kind of disaster you're going to be pretty much camping out in your house for a number of days."

Power companies say their top priority is to get hospitals, police stations, emergency call centers and other vital services back online. Next up are schools, followed by neighborhoods and homes.

Hughes says she is fortunate that the biggest inconvenience for her has been trying to make sure her food does not spoil.

"In driving around the city there are trees down on people's houses and some people don't have roofs anymore, so we're not in an emergency situation like other people are," she said. "The biggest inconvenience for me has been getting rid of my food in the refrigerator....I've been going to my other neighbors who do have power and dropping off food. So about two different neighbors have food that was once in our refrigerator."

One of the key tools Hughes has been using to find out who has power is Facebook. She posted a message and immediately found family, friends and neighbors willing to help.

Richardson says it is important to have a way to charge your phone. He suggests having a car charger or purchasing a crank or solar radio that has an adapter to plug in a cellphone.

Hughes has taken to charging her phone, laptop and son's Nintendo DS at work, but admits once the batteries run dry, the time together and freedom from electronics has been a nice change of pace.

"We've spent the past few mornings reading and making use of the natural sunlight....We have also been doing a lot of cooking," she said. "It definitely brought families together I would say. My own family, we are doing more things together....The last time I can remember doing this much together was during the blizzard when we were snowed in. It's unfortunate, but sometimes we need those little reminders."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Has Irene Polluted Shoreline Beaches?

ABC News(TRENTON, N.J.) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has ordered people back to the beach now that Hurricane Irene has blown through the state, although his own environmental agency is still testing waters for sewage, bacteria and debris churned up by the storm.

"Get the hell back on the beach," the notoriously blustery governor tweeted Monday as Irene faded away.

The state's Department of Environmental Protection issued a warning on its website Monday that raw sewage was spilling from a lake into the ocean near Asbury Park, just three blocks south of where Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno held a press conference encouraging visitors to make one last trip to the state's beaches for Labor Day weekend.

"We're open for business," Guadgno said.

Larry Ragonese, spokesperson for the DEP, said the agency had begun testing all of the beaches up and down the coast for water quality and expected to have the results posted by the end of the week on

"Obviously you have tremendous runoff of stormwater," Ragonese said. "And everything that is on land and sea kind of meet. So we're looking for any kind of bacteria, anything unusual. We're also looking for debris, from docks or boats. You don't want a life vest popping through the water."

Ragonese said it was likely that stormwater from Irene could have overwhelmed sewer systems and caused overflows, and that the department would be monitoring the water closely.

State environmental officials are testing beaches all along the Irene's path from North Carolina to New York as Labor Day weekend approaches.

Until the test results come in, beaches and the ocean will remain open, Ragonese said.

"It's up to each town along the coast. They're the ones as far as safety that would determine that," Ragonese said.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hurricane Irene Destroys Historic North Carolina Home

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NAGS HEAD, N.C.) -- As people all along the East Coast dig out and assess the damage from Hurricane Irene, one image stands out as a vivid reminder of the storm’s aftermath.

Captured by Scott Olson of Getty Images, it’s a photo of a devastated dad, comforting his daughter on a set of wooden steps surrounded by water. The staircase is all that remains of their 108-year-old family cottage, swept away by Hurricane Irene-surged water.

The Stinson family -- dad Billy, wife Sandra and daughter Erin -- lost the cottage on Albemarle Sound at Nags Head, N.C., Sunday to the storm.

“We pretended, just for a moment, the cottage was still behind us and we were sitting there watching the sunset,” Erin Stinson said of the photo.

The Stinson’s turn-of-the-century home was built in 1903, one of the first vacation homes built on Albemarle Sound.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The cottage found itself in the eye of Hurricane Irene, and the results were devastating. The hurricane first made landfall on North Carolina’s famed Outer Banks, destroying vulnerable beach houses along the shoreline before whipping up the East Coast, causing 40 deaths and still-untold billions of dollars worth of damage.

The Stinsons, the home’s owners since 1963, say their neighbors and the community are helping them get through this tough time.

A May 2010 story in Our State magazine tells the story of the Stinson’s historic family home.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hurricane Irene Death Toll Rises to over Three Dozen Amid Floods

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Flooding across parts of the East Coast is still a major issue in Hurricane Irene's wake, as the death toll rises to over three dozen across seven states, and thousands have found themselves stranded and without electricity for days to come.

Vermont is currently experiencing the worst flooding the state has seen in 84 years, which has the governor calling for "all the help we can get."  At least two people are dead and one is missing in the state beset with washed-out bridges and destroyed roadways.

Roads to a number of communities in the state remain cut off due to the flooding.  A total of a dozen bridges have been lost so far, including some of the state's iconic covered bridges.

Almost a foot of rain was dumped on Vermont as Irene passed through.  Rivers were already high from a wetter than average summer and heavy snowfall in the winter.

All Vermont state offices are closed, and the National Guard has deployed six rapid response teams.

"This event unfolded much faster than anyone anticipated," Vermont National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow said.

President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Vermont Monday morning.

"We're continuing to deal with the impact and the aftermath of Hurricane Irene," Obama said Monday.  "We're going to make sure folks have all the support they need as they begin to assess and repair the damage left by the storm."

In Little Falls, New Jersey, floodwaters are covering cars, and the city has set up a shelter for the 400,000 families that live in this area to ride out what will be an incredibly anxious night.  The water rose at 2 inches an hour by one estimate.

"We're not out of the woods yet regarding this storm," Gov. Chris Christie told a gathering at the Raritan River in Manville, New Jersey.  He said waters had hit record levels at nine locations and warned that the Passaic River had not yet crested.

The Ramapo, Pompton and Pequannock rivers in Wayne, New Jersey are also expected to crest sometime Tuesday.  These rivers will remain at "major flood" levels through Thursday.

Although New York City managed to avoid a wallop from the storm, inland towns and counties upstate saw more than 13 inches of rain as the storm pummeled parts of the Hudson Valley.

Fallen branches and demolished bridges have hindered road travel across the area, while at least three towns in New York remain cut off by flooded roads and bridges.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio