More than 60% of power customers remained without energy on Thursday, and a third of customers were without water.
President Joe Biden said Thursday the full force of the federal government is ready to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricane Fiona, while Bermuda and Canada’s Atlantic provinces prepared for a major blast from the Category 4 storm.
Speaking at a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in New York, President Biden said, “We’re all in this together.”
President Biden noted that hundreds of FEMA and other federal officials are already on the ground in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide blackout.
More than 60% of power customers remained without energy on Thursday, and a third of customers were without water — and local officials admitted they could not say when service would be fully restored.
President Biden said his message to the people of Puerto Rico who are still hurting from Hurricane Maria five years ago is: “We’re with you. We’re not going to walk away.”
That seemed to draw a contrast with former President Donald Trump, who was widely accused of an inadequate response to Maria, which left some Puerto Ricans without power for 11 months.
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Hundreds of people in Puerto Rico remained cut off by road four days after the hurricane ripped into the U.S. territory, and frustration was mounting for people like Nancy Galarza, who tried to signal for help from work crews she spotted in the distance.
“Everyone goes over there,” she said pointing toward crews at the bottom of the mountain who were helping others also cut off by the storm. “No one comes here to see us. I am worried for all the elderly people in this community.”
At least five landslides cover the narrow road to her community in the steep mountains around the northern town of Caguas. The only way to reach the settlement is to climb over thick mounds of mud, rock and debris left by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the the foundations of nearby homes with earthquake-like force.
“The rocks sounded like thunder,” recalled Vanessa Flores, a 47-year-old school janitor. “I’ve never in my life heard that. It was horrible.”
At least one elderly woman who relies on oxygen was evacuated on Thursday by city officials who were working under a pelting rain to clear paths to the San Salvador community.
Ramiro Figueroa, 63, said his 97-year-old bedridden father refused to leave home despite insistence from rescue crews. Their road was blocked by mud, rocks, trees and his sister’s pickup, which was washed down the hill during the storm.
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National Guard troops and others brought water, cereal, canned peaches and two bottles of apple juice.
“That has helped me enormously,” Figueroa said as he scanned the devastated landscape, where a river had changed its course and tore up the community.
At least eight of 11 communities in Caguas are completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal inspector of recovery and reconstruction. It’s one of at least six municipalities where crews have yet to reach some areas. People there often depend on help from neighbors, as they did following Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm in 2017 that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Miguel Veguilla said that in Maria’s aftermath he used picks and shovels to clear debris. But Fiona was different, unleashing huge landslides.
“I cannot throw those rocks over my shoulder,” he said.
Like hundreds of thousands in Puerto Rico, Veguilla has no water or electricity service, but said there is a natural water source nearby.
Puerto Rico’s government said some 62% of 1.47 million customers remained without power Thursday. A third of customers, or more than 400,000, did not yet have water service.
“Too many homes and businesses are still without power” President Biden said in New York, adding that additional utility crews were set to travel to the island to help restore power in the coming days.
The executive director of Puerto Rico’s Electric Energy Authority, Josué Colón, told a news conference that areas less affected by Fiona should have electricity by Friday morning. But officials declined to say when power would be restored to the hardest-hit places and said they were working first to get energy to hospitals and other key infrastructure.
Neither local nor federal government officials had provided an overall estimate of damage from the storm, which dropped up to 30 inches of rain in some areas.
Fiona so far has been blamed for at least two deaths in Puerto Rico.
Roughly 900,000 people on the island were without power four days after the storm, and nearly 500,000 people did not have water service.
Hurricane Fiona left hundreds of people stranded across Puerto Rico after smashing roads and bridges, with authorities still struggling to reach people four days after the storm smacked the U.S. territory, causing historic flooding.
For now, government officials are working with religious groups, nonprofits and others braving landslides, thick mud and broken asphalt by foot to provide food, water and medicine for people in need, but they are under pressure to clear a path so vehicles can enter isolated areas soon.
Related StoryHurricane Fiona Strengthens As It Heads To Bermuda
Nino Correa, commissioner for Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency, estimated that at least six municipalities across the island had areas that were cut off by Fiona, which struck as a Category 1 hurricane and was up to Category 4 power Wednesday as it headed toward Bermuda.
Living in one of those areas is Manuel Veguilla, who has not been able to leave his neighborhood in the north mountain town of Caguas since Fiona swept in on Sunday.
“We are all isolated,” he said, adding that he worries about elderly neighbors including his older brother who does not have the strength for the long walk it takes to reach the closest community.
Veguilla heard that municipal officials might open a pathway Thursday, but he doubted that would happen because he said large rocks covered a nearby bridge and the 10-foot space beneath it.
Neighbors have shared food and water dropped off by nonprofit groups, and the son of an elderly woman was able to bring back basic supplies by foot Wednesday, he said.
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Veguilla said that in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that struck five years ago and resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths, he and others used picks and shovels to clear the debris. But Fiona was different, unleashing huge landslides.
“I cannot throw those rocks over my shoulder,” he said.
Like hundreds of thousands of other Puerto Ricans after Fiona, Veguilla had no water or electricity service, but said they there is a natural water source nearby.
Fiona sparked an islandwide blackout when it hit Puerto Rico’s southwest region, which already was still trying to recover from a series of strong earthquakes in recent years. Some 62% of 1.47 million customers were without power four days after the storm amid an extreme heat alert issued by the National Weather Service. Some 36% of customers, or nearly half a million, did not have water service.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent hundreds of additional personnel to help local officials as the federal government approved a major disaster declaration and announced a public health emergency on the island.
Neither local nor federal government officials had provided any damage estimates as Puerto Rico struggles to recover from the storm, which dropped up to 30 inches of rain in some areas. More than 470 people and 48 pets remained in shelters.
“Our hearts go out to the people of Puerto Rico who have endured so much suffering over the last couple of years,” said Brad Kieserman, vice president of operations and logistics at the Red Cross.
After Puerto Rico, Fiona pummeled the Dominican Republic and then swiped past the Turks and Caicos Islands as it strengthened into a Category 4 storm. Officials there reported relatively light damage and no deaths, though the eye of the storm passed close to Grand Turk, the small British territory’s capital island, on Tuesday.
“God has been good to us and has kept us safe during this period when we could have had a far worse outcome,” Deputy Gov. Anya Williams said.
Fiona was forecast to pass near Bermuda early Friday, and then hit easternmost Canada early Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph on Thursday morning. It was centered about 485 miles southwest of Bermuda, heading north-northeast at 13 mph.
Fiona was a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph Wednesday morning and is expected to approach Bermuda late Thursday or Friday.
Hurricane Fiona strengthened into a Category 4 storm Wednesday after devastating Puerto Rico, then lashing the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands. It was forecast to squeeze past Bermuda later this week.
The storm has been blamed for directly causing at least four deaths in its march through the Caribbean, where winds and torrential rain in Puerto Rico left a majority of people on the U.S. territory without power or running water. Hundreds of thousands of people scraped mud out of their homes following what authorities described as “historic” flooding.
Related StoryHurricane Fiona Rips Through Powerless Puerto Rico
Power company officials initially said it would take a few days for electricity to be fully restored, but then appeared to backtrack late Tuesday night. Only 20% had power as of Wednesday morning., three days after it hit the island.
“Hurricane Fiona has severely impacted electrical infrastructure and generation facilities throughout the island. We want to make it very clear that efforts to restore and reenergize continue and are being affected by severe flooding, impassable roads, downed trees, deteriorating equipment, and downed lines,” said Luma, the company that operates power transmission and distribution.
The hum of generators could be heard across the territory as people became increasingly exasperated. Some were still trying to recover from Hurricane Maria, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm five years ago, causing the deaths of an estimated 2,975 people.
Luis Noguera, who was helping clear a landslide in the central mountain town of Cayey, said Maria left him without power for a year. Officials themselves didn’t declare full resumption of service until 11 months after Maria hit.
“We paid an electrician out of our own pocket to connect us,” he recalled, adding that he doesn’t think the government will be of much help again after Fiona.
Long lines were reported at several gas stations across Puerto Rico, and some pulled off a main highway to collect water from a stream.
“We thought we had a bad experience with Maria, but this was worse,” said Gerardo Rodríguez, who lives in the southern coastal town of Salinas.
Parts of the island had received more than 25 inches of rain and more had fallen on Tuesday.
By late Tuesday, authorities said they had restored power to some 350,000 of the island’s 1.47 million customers. Piped water service remained out for half the island’s users early Wednesday due to power outages and turbid water at filtration plants.
On Wednesday, the National Weather Service in San Juan issued a heat advisory for several cities because a majority of people on the island of 3.2 million remain without power.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency traveled to Puerto Rico on Tuesday as the agency announced it was sending hundreds of additional personnel to boost local response efforts.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency on the island and deployed a couple of teams to the island.
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials reported minimal damage and no deaths despite the storm’s eye passing close to Grand Turk, the small British territory’s capital island, on Tuesday morning.
The government had imposed a curfew and urged people to flee flood-prone areas.
“Turks and Caicos had a phenomenal experience over the past 24 hours,” said Deputy Gov. Anya Williams. “It certainly came with its share of challenges.”
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph on Wednesday morning and it was centered about 700 miles southwest of Bermuda, heading north at 8 mph.
It was likely to approach Bermuda late Thursday or Friday and then Canada’s Atlantic provinces on Saturday.
The storm killed a man in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe, another man in Puerto Rico who was swept away by a swollen river and two people in the Dominican Republic: one killed by a falling tree and the other by a falling electric post.
Two additional deaths were reported in Puerto Rico as a result of the blackout: A 70-year-old man burned to death after he tried to fill his generator with gasoline while it was running and a 78-year-old man police say inhaled toxic gases emitted from his generator.
Five years on, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still rebuilding and repairing after hurricanes Irma and Maria.
This month marks five years since hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Both Irma and Maria were Category 5 hurricanes that made their way through the regions within two weeks of each other, killing dozens of people by the official count — although many experts believe the actual tally was far greater. The hurricanes also caused billions of dollars in damage to both those island regions.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands in particular, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Maria damaged or destroyed 70% of the buildings on St. Croix, the region’s largest island. The hurricanes tore through a lot of the island’s infrastructure, including schools and the island’s only hospital. The power and communications networks in most of the USVI went down, with 80% to 90% of transmission and distribution systems destroyed. It was damage that would take months to repair and restore.
That’s a daunting task for any region, but especially so for one that’s as small and isolated as the USVI.
“It’s almost scary at times because you think ‘how do you do an $11 billion repair with 87,000 people and a workforce of only about 42,000?'” said U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.
Bryan spoke with Newsy about the challenges and successes in their recovery, and where there is still work to be done.
While acknowledging the intense damage, Bryan said the recovery efforts offer new hope for rebuilding in a way that better prepares the homes and the power grid in the area for future hurricanes or similar natural disasters.
“But what we’re seeing is better building codes produce more resilient buildings. And then we’re having an opportunity through this storm. We built our our power grid three times in the last 30 years, completely. This time, we’re undergrounding more than 50% of the grid. You have some opportunities for renewables. That’s going to make every Virgin Islander a little more energy independent. And we’re just seeing a way now to because the most debilitating factor in our economy is the price of power,” said Bryan.
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The price of power is no joke. The USVI has some of the highest electricity rates in the U.S. and the world.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, midway through 2021, the average price of electricity paid by U.S. Virgin Island residents was about 43 cents per kilowatt hour. To compare, the average for the U.S. was about 14 cents for that same time period.
Now, that pricing is in part because of petroleum fuel surcharges. The island relies heavily on imported fossil fuels to power its grid. But in rebuilding since the hurricanes, Gov. Bryan says the goal is to rely more on renewables like wind and solar energy.
“So we depend a lot on the tropical wind making that power shift, the things that we’re able to do, adding new generators to the plant, creating a microgrid, adding a whole lot of solar power will allow us to get our power built a little bit closer to what normal Americans or mainland Americans [experience]. And that alone is going to just strengthen our families so much and, of course, create some resounding effects in our economy,” he said.
Bryan also mentioned the caveat of climate change. Its growing effects could complicate life on the Virgin Islands further and increase hardships for its residents. Many of those residents are still coming to terms with the toll of Irma and Maria — not just in the physical aspects of their lives, but also in the mental aspects.
“I think when you see in the Virgin Islands, we look at the mental health wholeness that’s in our faces, the people on the street, whether drug addiction, alcohol, they’re self-medicating themselves. But the real problem is a deeper problem, a deep seated problem, where as people of color, we don’t like to talk about our mental health. And we if there’s such a stigma around it, we’ve come a long way it with that. But we have a lot to go,” said Bryan.
While the USVI’s rebuilding efforts have seen relative success, many areas of Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover from the massive devastation the hurricanes brought five years ago.
Puerto Rico is not only a much larger territory, but it is also governed in a different way. It has 78 mayors through whom relief efforts and money needed to be individually funneled and utilized, while the USVI has a unitary executive branch. That means there are no mayors, and governors hold those responsibilities.
Puerto Rico’s power grid also runs mainly on fossil fuels, but its recovery has not been on par with the USVI. And the company that currently controls its power grid has a problematic record. Newsy has previously reported on the damage from Maria and Irma in Puerto Rico as part of our documentary series, “In Real Life.” We investigated the region’s continuing power failures and how a private sector monopoly over the grid could be what’s keeping Puerto Ricans in the dark.
As a lifelong resident of Lafourche Parish in southern Louisiana, Jeanne Gouaux knew the storms that cut through the region demanded preparation. She had wind and hail insurance, a solid savings account. But it wasn’t until Hurricane Ida’s 150-mile-per-hour winds peeled back part of her roof last August that she experienced the fury — and its aftermath — up close.
“In a matter of one day, one storm came through and knocked out everything I worked so hard for all these years,” said Ms. Gouaux, a single mother of four and director of pharmacy for a surgery center near her home in Lockport, La.
With the cost and frequency of weather-driven disasters on the rise, girding your financial house for such a catastrophe — to the extent that you’re able — is increasingly crucial in parts of the country.
damage to residences, businesses and municipalities, according to an analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
too weak (or simply unenforced) to withstand damage.
But climate shifts are “supercharging the increasing frequency and intensity of certain types of extreme weather that lead to billion-dollar disasters,” said Adam Smith, the climate scientist who led the NOAA analysis, “most notably the vulnerability to drought, lengthening wildfire seasons in the Western states and the potential for extremely heavy rainfall becoming more common in the Eastern states.”
“It hints that the extremely high activity of recent years is becoming the new normal,” he added.
Ms. Gouaux, 45, had a bad feeling about Ida. In a prescient move, she packed up her family and, for the first time, left her home before the storm hit.
state program — while the home was gutted and repaired. Only in June, after 10 months, was the family able to partly move back in. With the house incomplete, meals are still cooked in the camper.
went bankrupt, causing the state guarantor to take over claims, gumming up an already slow process. It took nine months to collect her first insurance check.
Not all households have the wherewithal to prepare themselves for the worst. But there is some safeguarding that everyone can attempt. Here’s where to start:
tools can provide a starting point for assessing your home’s risk to earthly hazards.
Risk Factor has created a user-friendly tool that outlines flood, fire and extreme-heat risks (and soon other perils, including wind) for most homes across the country. Plug in an address, and it drills down to the property level, illustrating potential hazards. For example, it can show the probability that a property might flood, where the water is likely to pool, the damage it might cause and how much repairs might cost.
hazard maps for earthquakes, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Flood Insurance Program maintain flood maps (which also determine whether a home with a federally backed mortgage is required to have flood insurance). The flood program has recently overhauled its rating methodology, called Risk Rating 2.0, but you’ll have to contact a flood insurance agent who can share more about your property’s unique risk, said Jeremy Edwards, a FEMA spokesman.
You may be able to find more local hazard information, too. Californians, for example, can enter their address into the MyHazards website. And if you’re new to a community, talk to neighbors.
you can do to minimize damage if a flood or fire strike. The costs of mitigation will vary, but it may reduce your insurance premiums. Some insurers, for example, provide meaningful discounts in hurricane-prone regions after homeowners install roof braces or straps, said Alyssa Bourgeois, an insurance producer with MarshMcLennan in Metairie, La.
The Risk Factor website provides suggestions for hazards facing specific properties, and many regions have programs offering residents financial help to harden their homes against specific hazards, though funding is often limited.
Evaluate insurance needs. The insurance market varies greatly by locality and the hazards inherent to the area. Standard homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies do not cover all hazards. Floods and earthquakes always require separate coverage. Wind and hail (hurricane) coverage may carry its own deductible as part of your homeowners’ insurance, or it may be a separate policy, at least in certain areas. Wildfires, meanwhile, are often incorporated into many policies, experts said.
Flood insurance (see Ann Carrns’s guide here) is generally available through the National Flood Insurance Program, which FEMA manages. Most Californians buy earthquake coverage through the California Earthquake Authority, a nonprofit entity created through state law to provide policies through its member insurers.
enough coverage to replace your property — that is, to rebuild it, not what you’d pay to buy it again, said Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a consumer advocacy group.
But many households in the highest-risk areas, including hurricane-prone states like Louisiana and Florida, are having trouble finding affordable coverage as insurers exit the market in droves.
Jude Boudreaux, a financial planner in New Orleans, said he receives calls weekly from clients questioning whether they should continue living there given the increased insurance costs. “A lot of carriers are leaving Louisiana, so people with policies are getting nonrenewal notices, and there are fewer choices out there,” he said.
Until rates stabilize, many people are resorting to the usual strategies to keep costs manageable, like increasing deductibles and reducing some coverage, including on “other structures” such as garages and personal property.
cars and other vehicles. Comprehensive auto coverage, required by auto lenders, generally provides protection against natural disasters. But older, low-value cars may not have comprehensive (and it may not be worth the cost anyway). “In those cases, we’d recommend setting aside the amount of the premium you’d pay each year into a savings account instead of giving it to the insurer,” Mr. Heller said.
home inventory spreadsheet, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a related app, and there are other inventory apps as well.
The least time-consuming method might be to walk through each room of your home with your mobile phone’s video camera, narrating the contents along the way. Don’t forget to open up closets, cabinets and drawers, as well as storage spaces and the garage. Then email the file to yourself, or store it securely online (and perhaps on an external hard drive).
There’s real money at stake: Ms. Gouaux was able to recover only roughly $14,000 of the $53,000 in contents coverage on her wind and hail policy.
“The night we left, someone posted: Make sure you take photos of all the rooms,” she said. “We didn’t do a good job. By the time we got back, everything was all over the place, and it was very hot.”
fireproof and waterproof box. Consider storing electronic copies on an external hard drive (using password protection) or in the cloud.
FEMA’s financial emergency kit has an exhaustive check list of what to gather and protect, along with a 41-page emergency financial first-aid kit that can be filled out online and stored in a secure place. The American Red Cross has a version of its own.
If you have to leave your home, experts suggest taking key documents with you in case you need to file a claim with your insurer or apply for FEMA assistance.
Keep emergency funds. Having access to money for any basic needs is also something to consider. If there’s no electricity and A.T.M.s aren’t working, you’ll probably need cash. Stash some in a safe place.
And if you receive any federal benefits through paper checks, now is the time to switch to automatic electronic deposits. Ditto for any other payments you may receive by mail.
take. Mr. Boudreaux, who has lived with the threat of hurricanes for most of his life, said to walk through your home and think about what’s irreplaceable — it probably fits into a plastic box.
“Define what those things are, or create a list so if someone knocked on your door and said, ‘The fire is coming in 30 minutes’ — what would you take?” he said. “It’s also good life perspective exercise.”
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will be joined by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and his wife for a briefing on the flooding’s impact.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrived in Kentucky on Monday to meet with families and view damage from storms that have resulted in the worst flooding in Kentucky’s history.
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At least 37 people have died since last month’s deluge, which dropped 8 to 10 1/2 inches of rain in only 48 hours. The National Weather Service said Sunday that flooding remains a threat, warning of more thunderstorms through Thursday.
The Bidens will be joined by Gov. Andy Beshear and his wife, Britainy, for a briefing on the flooding’s impact with first responders and recovery specialists at Marie Roberts Elementary School in Lost Creek. They will then tour a hard-hit community in the state and meet directly with those affected.
“They will receive an update on the disaster response, thank those on the front lines and share in the community’s grief,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Monday’s visit is President Biden’s second to the state since taking office last year. He previously visited in December after tornadoes whipped through Kentucky, killing 77 people and leaving a trail of destruction.
“I wish I could tell you why we keep getting hit here in Kentucky,” Beshear said recently. “I wish I could tell you why areas where people may not have much continue to get hit and lose everything. I can’t give you the why, but I know what we do in response to it. And the answer is everything we can. These are our people. Let’s make sure we help them out.”
President Biden has expanded federal disaster assistance to Kentucky, ensuring the federal government will cover the full cost of debris removal and other emergency measures.
Jean-Pierre said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided more than $3.1 million in relief funds, and hundreds of rescue personnel have been deployed to help.
The flooding came just one month after Beshear visited Mayfield to celebrate the completion of the first houses to be fully constructed since a tornado nearly wiped out the town. Three families were handed keys to their new homes that day, and the governor in his remarks harked back to a visit he had made in the immediate aftermath.
“I pledged on that day that while we had been knocked down, we were not knocked out,” Beshear said. “That we would get back up again and we would move forward. And six months to the day, we’re not just up, we’re not just standing on our feet, we are moving forward.”
Now more disasters are testing the state. Beshear has been to eastern Kentucky as many times as weather permitted since the flooding began. He’s had daily news conferences stretching an hour to provide details including a full range of assistance for victims. Much like after the tornadoes, Beshear opened relief funds going directly to people in the beleaguered regions.
At least 37 people died in the flooding after 8 to 10 1/2 inches of rain fell in 48 hours last week in the Appalachian mountain region.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to eastern Kentucky on Monday to survey the damage from last week’s devastating floods and meet with those affected.
The White House announced Friday that the Bidens would join Gov. Andy Beshear and his wife, Britainy, at a Federal Emergency Management Agency State Disaster Recovery Center. At least 37 people lost their lives in the flooding after 8 to 10 1/2 inches (20 to 27 centimeters) of rain fell in just 48 hours last week in the Appalachian mountain region. The flooding also hit areas just across the state line in Virginia and West Virginia.
Related StoryKentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman On Flood Recovery Efforts
More than 1,300 people were rescued in the days after the storm as teams searched in boats and combed debris-clogged creekbanks. Work crews were still trying to restore power and water connections to homes, as residents look to repair their homes and lives after the floods.
Thunderstorms on Friday brought a renewed threat of flooding to parts of Kentucky ravaged by high water a week ago.
The trip will be President Biden’s first trip outside of Washington since he tested positive for COVID-19 on July 21. He has been in isolation awaiting a negative virus test since July 30 with a rebound case of the virus.
The declaration comes as the Biden administration has faced criticism over the pace of vaccine availability for monkeypox.
The U.S. will declare a public health emergency to bolster the federal response to the outbreak of monkeypox that already has infected more than 6,600 Americans, two people familiar with the matter said.
The announcement will free up federal funding and resources to fight the virus, which may cause fever, body aches, chills, fatigue and pimple-like bumps on many parts of the body. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.
The declaration comes as the the Biden administration has faced criticism over the pace of vaccine availability for monkeypox. Clinics in major cities like New York and San Francisco say they haven’t received enough of the two-shot vaccine to meet demand and some have had to stop offering the second dose of the vaccine to ensure supply of first doses. The White House said it has made more than 1.1 million doses of vaccine available and has helped to boost domestic diagnostic capacity to 80,000 tests per week.
The monkeypox virus spreads through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling and kissing, as well as sharing bedding, towels and clothing. People getting sick so far have been primarily men who have sex with men. But health officials emphasize that the virus can infect anyone.
The announcement comes three days after the Biden administration named top officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to serve as the White House coordinators to combat the monkeypox outbreak.
The competitive grants will help communities across the nation prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters.
The White House is making more than $1 billion available to states to address flooding and extreme heat exacerbated by climate change.
Vice President Kamala Harris is set to announce the grant programs Monday at an event in Miami with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other officials. The competitive grants will help communities across the nation prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters.
“We know that the impacts of the climate crisis are here, and that we must invest in building resilience to protect our communities, infrastructure and economy,” the White House said in a statement.
The announcement comes as the death toll from massive flooding in Kentucky continued to climb on Sunday amid a renewed threat of more heavy rains. In the West, wildfires in California and Montana exploded in size amid windy, hot conditions, encroaching on neighborhoods and forcing evacuation orders.
Multiple Western states continued heat advisories amid a prolonged drought that has dried reservoirs and threatened communities across the region.
Harris will visit the National Hurricane Center for a briefing by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and FEMA. She also will visit Florida International University, where she is expected to address extreme weather events across the country, including the flooding in Kentucky and Missouri and the wildfires in California.
President Joe Biden announced last month that the administration will spend $2.3 billion to help communities cope with soaring temperatures through programs administered by FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies. The move doubles spending on the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, or BRIC, program, which supports states, local communities, tribes and territories on projects to reduce climate-related hazards and prepare for natural disasters such as floods and wildfires.
“Communities across our nation are experiencing first-hand the devastating impacts of the climate change and the related extreme weather events that follow — more energized hurricanes with deadlier storm surges, increased flooding and a wildfire season that’s become a year-long threat,” FEMA head Deanne Criswell said.
The funding to be announced Monday will “help to ensure that our most vulnerable communities are not left behind, with hundreds of millions of dollars ultimately going directly to the communities that need it most,” Criswell said.
A total of $1 billion will be made available through the BRIC program, with another $160 million to be offered for flood mitigation assistance, officials said.
Jacksonville, Florida, was among cities that received money under the BRIC program last year. The city was awarded $23 million for flood mitigation and stormwater infrastructure. Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida, sits in a humid, subtropical region along the St. Johns River and Atlantic Ocean, making it vulnerable to flooding when stormwater basins reach capacity. The city experiences frequent flooding and is at risk for increased major storms.
The South Florida Water Management District in Miami-Dade County received $50 million for flood mitigation and pump station repairs. Real estate development along the city’s fast-growing waterfront has created a high-risk flood zone for communities in the city and put pressure on existing systems, making repairs to existing structures an urgent need, officials said.
The Biden administration has launched a series of actions intended to reduce heat-related illness and protect public health, including a proposed workplace heat standard.
Pres. Biden made a speech at an ex-coal plant, which embodies the transition to clean energy that he is seeking but has struggled to realize thus far.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced modest new steps to combat climate change and promised more robust action to come, saying, “This is an emergency and I will look at it that way.”
The president stopped short, though, of declaring a formal climate emergency, which Democrats and environmental groups have been seeking after an influential Democratic senator quashed hopes for sweeping legislation to address global warming. President Biden hinted such a step could be coming.
“Let me be clear,” President Biden said. “Climate change is an emergency, and in the coming weeks I’m going to use the power I have as president to turn these words into formal, official government actions through the appropriate proclamations, executive orders and regulatory power that a president possesses.”
President Biden delivered his pledge at a former coal-fired power plant in Massachusetts. The former Brayton Point power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, is shifting to offshore wind power manufacturing, and President Biden chose it as the embodiment of the transition to clean energy that he is seeking but has struggled to realize in the first 18 months of his presidency.
Executive actions announced Wednesday will bolster the domestic offshore wind industry in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast, as well as expand efforts to help communities cope with soaring temperatures through programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies.
The trip comes as historic temperatures bake Europe and the United States. Temperatures reached 115 degrees in Portugal as wildfires raged in Spain and France, and Britain on Tuesday shattered its record for highest temperature ever registered. At least 60 million Americans could experience triple-digit temperatures over the next several days as cities around the U.S. sweat through more intense and longer-lasting heat waves that scientists blame on global warming.
Calls for a national emergency declaration to address the climate crisis have been rising among activists and Democratic lawmakers after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., last week scuttled talks on a long-delayed legislative package.
White House officials have said the option remains under consideration. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday declined to outline a timetable for a decision aside from saying no such order would be issued this week.
Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s climate adviser, said President Biden is not “shying away” from treating climate as an emergency.
“The president wants to make sure that we’re doing it right, that we’re laying it out, and that we have the time we need to get this worked out,” she told reporters on Air Force One.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said he was “confident that the president is ultimately ready to do whatever it takes in order to deal with this crisis.”
“I think that he’s made that clear in his statement last Friday, and I think coming to Massachusetts is a further articulation of that goal,” Markey told reporters Tuesday.
An emergency declaration on climate would allow the president to redirect federal resources to bolster renewable energy programs that would help accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. The declaration also could be used as a legal basis to block oil and gas drilling or other projects, although such actions would likely be challenged in court by energy companies or Republican-led states.
Such a declaration would be similar to the one issued by President Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who declared a national emergency to build a wall on the southern border when lawmakers refused to allocate money for that effort.
President Biden pledged last week to take significant executive actions on climate after monthslong discussions between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., came to a standstill. The West Virginia senator cited stubbornly high inflation as the reason for his hesitation, although he has long protected energy interests in his coal- and gas-producing state.
For now, Manchin has said he will only agree to a legislative package that shores up subsidies to help people buy insurance under the 2010 health care law and allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices that will ultimately lower the cost of pharmaceuticals for consumers.
The White House has indicated it wants Congress to take that deal, and President Biden will address the climate issue on his own.
The former Brayton Point power plant closed in 2017 after burning coal for more than five decades. The plant will now become an offshore wind energy site.
A new report says the U.S. and other major carbon-polluting nations are falling short on pledges to fight climate change. Among the 10 biggest carbon emitters, only the European Union has enacted polices close to or consistent with international goals of limiting warming to just a few more tenths of a degree, according to scientists and experts who track climate action in countries.