U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) will convene a hearing at 9:45 a.m. on Thursday, April 12, 2018, entitled “Are We Ready for the Next Hurricane Season? Status of Preparation and Response Capabilities for 2018.” The hearing will examine the status of local and federal agencies’ recovery from the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, and ongoing preparation for the 2018 season.
Panel 1 (testimony only):
- Mr. Chuck Lindsey, City Manager, Marathon, Florida
- Mr. Jamie Miller, Deputy Director for Governmental Affairs and Chief Innovation Officer, Mississippi Development Authority
- Ms. Jennifer Pipa, Regional Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross of Central Florida
Panel 2 (testimony followed by questions):
- Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., USN Ret., Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Rear Admiral Linda Fagan, Deputy Commandant for Operations, Policy, and Capabilities, U.S. Coast Guard
- T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, Ph.D., Member, National Transportation Safety Board
*Witness lists subject to change.
Thursday, April 12, 2018
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The last time we discussed hurricanes in this committee was in May of 2016.
So, here we are with hurricane season nipping at our heels again. At the same time we’re still actively recovering from the busy and deadly 2017 season.
Today, we’re going to examine what’s gone wrong, what’s gone right and what can be done better.
And as we’re all very well aware, there are some areas where we can and must do better.
Delays by FEMA to reimburse local governments have been completely unacceptable.
Local governments are financially struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma, while at the same time still waiting for funds related to Hurricane Matthew and Hermine, which hit Florida over sixteen months ago.
Six months after Hurricane Irma, some counties have yet to see a dime of the FEMA reimbursements they were promised.
Our communities are cash-strapped and in need of federal funds in order to continue their recovery efforts and prepare for the upcoming hurricane season less than two months away. They can’t do that the way things are currently going.
Florida’s citrus farmers, too, need to make decisions about harvesting and planting, but they’re still waiting for the USDA to allocate the over two billion dollars Congress provided in February.
And the two hundred million dollars we appropriated to address fishery disasters and the eighteen million dollars to address the canals littered with debris in places like the Florida Keys is sitting at the Department of Treasury as NOAA’s plan to get it out the door awaits approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget.
This funding was intended to help people, not to be mired in a sea of bureaucratic red tape.
Or, take the Army Corps of Engineers, who have reportedly been moving workers out of Puerto Rico before power is fully restored.
Suffice to say, we can do better. And we must.
That’s why we’ve asked to hear directly from both folks who are on the ground and those who head agencies here in Washington that are involved in hurricane assistance, recovery and preparedness efforts.
First, I’d like to welcome a couple of our witnesses from Florida.
Chuck Lindsey is the city manager for Marathon, Florida—a city working to return to normalcy after Hurricane Irma slammed into the Florida Keys. Welcome, Chuck.
Jennifer Pipa is a regional chief executive officer of the Red Cross and lives in Tampa. Jennifer deployed to Houston following Hurricane Harvey—then one week later to Florida for Irma response—and then to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. It’s certainly rare that we have someone before us who witnessed the devastation in all three locations and played a key role in delivering disaster relief. Ms. Pipa, we look forward to hearing from you.
I’m also anxious to hear from Admiral Gallaudet on NOAA’s next steps now that Congress has given the agency the funding to purchase a Hurricane Hunter replacement jet.
And finally, I want to hear from NTSB Board Member Bella Dinh-Zarr about any progress that’s been made to implement recommendations stemming from the investigation into the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship, which tragically was lost during Hurricane Joaquin in 2015.
Rochelle Hamm is in the audience today to honor her husband Frank’s memory – an El Faro crew member. Since his death, Mrs. Hamm and the other El Faro families have left no stone unturned to improve maritime safety.
Like the families, I too think we need to do a better job of making sure ships have access to the most up-to-date weather information, they have the best lifeboats and lifesaving equipment and that vessels are properly inspected.
Welcome, Ms. Hamm.
Thank you to our witnesses. And thank you to Chairman Thune and to Senator Wicker for holding this very important hearing. With that, I’ll turn it over to our local impact panel.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Chuck LindseyCity ManagerMarathon, Florida
Mr. Jamie MillerDeputy Director for Governmental Affairs and Chief Innovation OfficerMississippi Development Authority
Ms. Jennifer PipaRegional Chief Executive OfficerAmerican Red Cross of Central Florida
Witness Panel 2
Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet USN (Ret.) Ph.D.Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and AtmosphereNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Rear Admiral Linda FaganDeputy Commandant for Operations, Policy, and CapabilitiesU.S. Coast Guard
T. Bella Dinh-Zarr Ph.D.MemberNational Transportation Safety Board