- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2003

Emergency teams from the Homeland Security Department were dispatched with 70 semi-trailer trucks of supplies including portable toilets, plastic sheeting, cots and water to help victims of Hurricane Isabel along the East Coast.

“The fortunate thing is it moved much more rapidly [than] we thought; the bad news is she dropped all that moisture and consequently we’re faced with flash flooding, high tides and surges,” Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Michael Brown said.

The Homeland Security Department, now in charge of natural disasters, deployed thousands of employees from its various departments, such as FEMA and the U.S. Coast Guard, in response to Isabel.

President Bush signed disaster declarations for North Carolina and Virginia, and another was pending for Maryland, clearing the red tape for federal emergency funding and assistance in the aftermath.

The Coast Guard dispatched rescue teams on inland waters and the Atlantic Coast. Helicopters were being used to hoist people stranded on rooftops and cars and to locate other residents for evacuation.

Military bases are being used as staging sites to deliver supplies. The Army Corps of Engineers is delivering more than a hundred thousand gallons of water and tons of ice. The Red Cross is housing flood victims and is outfitted to serve 10,000 meals a day.

Emergency teams from Health and Human Services have also been sent out to monitor water and sanitation quality.

“You never want to say it’s not as bad as you expected, because to those it affects, it’s bad,” Mr. Brown said.

The hurricane has been blamed for 15 deaths, extensive flooding and power outages to more than 5 million people.

However, the events that follow hurricanes are typically blamed for further deaths and destructive weather.

In a written statement after the storm, Mr. Brown urged evacuated residents to be cautious when returning to their homes.

“While the immediate danger is past, there are downed power lines, high water and other dangers that still threaten public safety,” he said.

It was too soon yesterday to tell how much damage Isabel caused or the dollar figure for repairs, but Mr. Brown said a federal damage assessment team would have the first indications by late last night.

Mr. Brown said he was “exceptionally pleased” with the coordination among the federal agencies in responding to the hurricane.

“The primary objective of the Department of Homeland Security and all responders now is to save lives and property,” said Director Tom Ridge.

The federal agency also provides emergency housing, clothing and food for flood victims, and can be contacted at 800-621-FEMA.

Asked what services the agency can provide for victims, Mr. Brown said “we basically try and get them back on their feet.”

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