Will hurricane strikes stretch FEMA too thin? Retired general says no

Will hurricane strikes stretch FEMA too thin? Retired general says no

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - While FEMA continues its recovery efforts in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, the federal government is staging even more first responders for a potential impact should Hurricane Irma hit the United States.

So what is the potential that FEMA will be stretched too thin in responding to two major hurricanes in such a short time span?

On Tuesday, 32,000 Texas flood victims and 1,000 Louisiana flood victims remained in shelters and were in need of help rebuilding after Harvey.

FEMA, along with other federal partners, has stationed more than 31,000 federal employees in the area for the recovery effort, and with Hurricane Irma barreling toward the U.S., FEMA activated three of its 10 regions in preparation for an impact.

"Texas is basically done with the search and rescue. Those assets that would be available for search and rescue they may be re-missioned to Florida, but I would doubt much other would get re-missioned because the scope and size of what's going on in Texas is unprecedented," said retired Gen. Russel Honore.

Since his time helping with Hurricane Katrina recovery, Honore often works with FEMA to find areas where recovery efforts can improved. He said one of the biggest ways to help with recovery is to station people in and around the areas expected to be affected.

FEMA regions that are headquartered in Kansas City, Philadelphia and Atlanta are getting ready to deploy when Irma makes landfall.

"They're even pre-deploying some assets into Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands before the storm arrives, the U.S. Virgin Islands," Honore said. "Things that they know they are going to need like heavy pumps to pump water out and protect the hospitals and critical infrastructure. They are moving and they are working with those local governments to be prepared."

Honore said if Irma should cause catastrophic damage like that in Houston, an unprecedented number of federal employees helping with recovery could be deployed at once - but he does not believe it would stretch FEMA too thin.

"We're well-positioned and they're organized to do it," Honore said. "There's a method to it, and they are preparing."

Honore said it's significant that states of emergency are issued prior to a major storm making landfall to free up resources that will undoubtedly be needed.

Copyright 2017 WVUE. All rights reserved.