Hawaii’s congressional delegation today urged President Donald Trump to immediately provide federal assistance to the state as Hurricane Douglas hurtles toward the isles.
The delegation, made up of U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, and U.S. Reps. Ed Case and Tulsi Gabbard, said in a letterto the president today that with the hurricane expected to threaten homes, businesses and infrastructure in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the state has a “narrow window of opportunity” to prepare.
Hurricane Douglas, already a major Category 3 storm, is forecast to impact the Hawaiian islands as early as Saturday night. Forecasters have warned of the possibility of strong winds, dangerous surf and heavy rainfall, as well as flash flooding across portions of the state.
“With the time remaining before the forecasted landfall, we can take steps that will improve outcomes for Hawaii residents,” wrote the delegation. “Close coordination among federal, state, and county officials will make it possible to have supplies, personnel, and plans in place for Hurricane Douglas. Federal support is especially critical at this juncture because so many state and county emergency management and response personnel are already committed to the COVID pandemic.”
Although no specific amounts are stated, the delegation outlined specific requests for personal protective equipment, medical support, food, water, additional shelter facilities, personnel, and expertise to keep residents safe.
Among them were:
>> The deployment of Hurricane Hunters. The delegation said hurricane hunters provide the best forecasting data for tropical cyclones like Douglas, and that deploying both P-3 and G-IV class aircraft or their equivalents “will ensure that forecasters have the best possible information to advise emergency managers and responders.”
>> COVID Support for Emergency Operations. To minimize risk, management and response personnel will need personal protective equipment, industrial hygiene supplies for their workplaces, alternate shelter to quarantine from their families, screening and testing to identify and react promptly to infection; and medical support in the event of infection.
>> COVID Support for Evacuation and Shelter. Evacuation shelters need to be scaled up to accommodate larger numbers of people in order to practice stricter hygiene and physical distancing protocols due to the coronavirus. The delegation requests support for additional shelter facilities, including the consideration of currently underused hotels, special screening protocols to help identify and manage evacuees who may already be infected, or who are at greater risk if they become infected; and additional shelter personnel.
>> Food and Nutrition Assistance. An unprecedented number of Hawaii residents have already sought help through emergency food programs. Disasters exacerbate this need, and further disrupt food distribution networks, the delegation said, so funding is sought to provide adequate stockpiles of shelf-stable food and water; to collaborate with agricultural producers, fishermen, feeding organizations, and local distributors to incorporate fresh food into emergency provisions; and to know where to pre-position supplies to support highest impacted areas, and ensure supply chains continue if transportation infrastructure is damaged.
>> Enhanced Assessment and Rebuilding Functions. The state also seeks funds to restore infrastructure as quickly as possible so residents can return to their homes to shelter, observe distancing and limit their risk of infection. The delegation asks for a rapid assessment of damages from Douglas, along with quick access to resources to rebuild.
In addition, state and and county officials seek assistance from their federal partners at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“We request your urgent attention to ensure these agencies respond quickly and compassionately to protect the people of Hawaii,” the delegation said.