Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said federal agencies are prepared to take on Hurricane Dorian, which upgraded to a catastrophic Category 5 storm.
The National Hurricane Center announced Sunday morning that Hurricane Dorian upgraded to a level 5 storm, warning of winds reaching 160 mph. Later in the morning, the NHC warned the hurricane could potentially blow winds up to 175 mph with gusts over 200 mph.
“The latest forecast — the storm is hitting the northern islands of the Bahamas right now. They are starting to experience hurricane-force winds. It will go across the northern islands of the Bahamas, and then we expect it to stall out,” McAleenan said in a pre-recorded interview that aired Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week.”
Hurricane Dorian’s trajectory has befuddled storm trackers. Just several days ago, it was expected to make landfall around the middle of Florida’s east coast and pass through the state, eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Since Saturday, however, Dorian is projected to pivot northward, passing through Georgia’s, South Carolina’s and North Carolina’s eastern coastline.
“Most models show it stalling out about 60 miles offshore, not making landfall. But that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. In fact, we expect hurricane-force winds to potentially hit the coast of Florida, and then a prolonged rain event combined with storm surge that’s going to be very difficult as the storm starts to move northward, most likely up the coast of Florida and toward Georgia and South Carolina.”
The U.S. government still cannot determine the hurricane’s exact pathway with certainty.
“The National Hurricane Center says that most of the models show it staying offshore and moving slowly north, but that means the storm effect will be prolonged on the coastline,” the DHS chief said. “We want people to listen to the state and local emergency managers. Listen to the evacuation orders, make sure you’re prepared, make sure you have seven days of supplies, medicine, food, even pet food.”
Dorian is passing the Bahamas’ Abaco Islands as of press time, bringing down “dangerous and life-threatening” storms expected to cause “extreme destruction” for several hours.
McAleenan was asked about FEMA’s handling of Hurricane Maria, which brought massive destruction to Puerto Rico in 2017, and how the U.S. government’s response would be different for this storm. The DHS chief said all agencies are prepared. (RELATED: Who Is Kevin McAleenan, The Upcoming Leader Of Homeland Security?)
“I can guarantee you that FEMA and all of our federal partners are doing everything they can to support our state and local partners that manage and execute the emergency response,” he said. “We have 3,000 people already deployed across the federal government agencies for this storm — about half of those are direct FEMA employees … it’s a battle-hardened team right behind me here.”
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