What Happens If a Hurricane Comes During the Government Shutdown?

Hurricane Karen is forming in the Gulf of Mexico. A shutdown-strapped FEMA is getting ready.

A handwritten FEMA sign drips in the rain where people were waiting on line to receive 1,500 donated coats from New York Cares in the Far Rockaway neighborhood on November 13, 2012.
National Journal
Matt Berman
See more stories about...
Matt Berman
Oct. 3, 2013, 9:23 a.m.

Hur­ricane watches are now in ef­fect from Grand Isle, La., to In­di­an Pass, Fla. It’s not yet clear how strong the storm, Hur­ricane Kar­en, will be­come as it moves to­ward the Gulf Coast. But even though the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is shut down, the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency is get­ting ready to re­spond.

In a state­ment Thursday morn­ing, FEMA said it has be­gun to re­call fur­loughed em­ploy­ees “ne­ces­sary to serve func­tions of the agency that pro­tect life and prop­erty.” This is hap­pen­ing in ac­cord­ance with the agency’s shut­down con­tin­gency plan. FEMA’s Hur­ricane Li­ais­on Team in Miami’s Na­tion­al Hur­ricane Cen­ter was re­act­iv­ated Thursday morn­ing.

But not every weath­er agency is up and run­ning. Here is where we would typ­ic­ally give you some in­form­a­tion from the Na­tion­al Ocean­ic and At­mo­spher­ic Ad­min­is­tra­tion. But its web­site, NOAA.gov, is cur­rently down due to the shut­down. Ready.gov, a site that helps Amer­ic­ans set up plans for dis­asters, is not up­dat­ing dur­ing the shut­down.

Des­pite the shut­down, FEMA is do­ing more than just get­ting ready to re­spond to a pos­sible hur­ricane. The agency has enough em­ploy­ees on hand to con­tin­ue its flood-re­lief ef­forts in Col­or­ado and its work help­ing areas of Ok­lahoma hit by a tor­nado in May. Part of the reas­on is that fund­ing for these ef­forts comes from the Dis­aster Re­lief Fund, which isn’t cur­rently af­fected by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment fund­ing lapse.

But FEMA can’t just do everything dur­ing a shut­down. On Wed­nes­day, a con­gres­sion­al hear­ing about the agency’s emer­gency alert sys­tem took place. No one from FEMA was able to at­tend.

What We're Following See More »
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
2 days ago

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
1 days ago

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
1 days ago

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.
CNN Calls the Primary for Sanders and Trump
20 hours ago

Well that didn’t take long. CNN has already declared Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump the winners of the New Hampshire primary, leaving the rest of the candidates to fight for the scraps. Five minutes later, the Associated Press echoed CNN’s call.