Disaster News (9-27-21)

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National News

Hurricane Sam “has peaked in intensity,” no landfall expected

Hurricane Sam rapidly intensified over the weekend and is now a Category 4 storm. CBS News reports forecasters believe the system has “peaked in intensity” as it moves east-southeast of the Leeward Islands, although there could be some fluctuations in its strength over the next day or so. AccuWeather reports there is growing confidence in the forecast models that Sam will not make a direct hit on the U.S., but the storm will still produce rough surf and rip currents likely to reach much of the eastern coast of the U.S. later this week. The Weather Channel reports Sam is expected to track north of the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands and will move close to Bermuda late in the week.

Caskets are still scattered around a Louisiana community as residents struggle to recover from Hurricane Ida

In Louisiana, CNN reports caskets swept out of their tombs are still scattered around the town of Ironton in Plaquemines Parish almost four weeks after Hurricane Ida. One church official says, “They’re shocked by the magnitude of the destruction, but they’re even more so overwhelmed by their loved ones floating and ending up landing in the streets and people’s yards and on the side of the levee and out in the field, and it’s just, just overwhelming.” Estimates are that between 30 to 40 caskets and vaults were displaced, but the number could be higher. The article notes residents are beginning the grueling process of rebuilding as decisions are made about relocating the caskets. Debris pickup is underway and parish officials have asked FEMA for authorization to remove debris from private property. FEMA is also encouraging residents to apply for housing and other disaster assistance.

FEMA federal aid increases following Biden’s approval for Louisiana

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Saturday that President Biden approved his request for 15 more days of federal funding following Hurricanes Laura and Ida. BR Proud (LA) notes Public Assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures will have 100 percent federal funding. The overall federal cost-share for FEMA Public Assistance funding for Hurricane Ida was also increased to 90 percent. Edwards said, “It is a meaningful and important step to help communities across our state recover as much work remains to be done.”

FEMA changes course, grants expanded disaster declaration for Macomb, Oakland counties

In Michigan, the Detroit News (MI) reports FEMA has expanded assistance to Macomb and Oakland counties after flooding in June. The expansion means individuals in the declared counties are now eligible for assistance such as low-cost loans, temporary housing or home repairs. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer thanked FEMA for reversing its decision in a Saturday statement. Whitmer said, “We are going to do everything in our power to ensure that Michiganders get the assistance they need to recover from these storms.”

I stayed at a free 10-day quarantine hotel in NYC when I got COVID-19. Programs like these need to be more widespread if we want to get a hold on the virus.

A Business Insider opinion article looks at one reporter’s experience with the Isolation Hotel Program that was implemented in April 2020 by NYC Health and Hospitals. The program provides a safe, affordable space for residents and travelers to quarantine. The article says New York operated five hotels at the peak of the pandemic, but hotels were decommissioned as infection rates decreased. Since March 2020, over 24,000 New York residents have checked in, but the hotels have never been at capacity. The article says the program is eligible under FEMA and is free for a 10-night stay with three daily meals, a weekly laundry service, and four outdoor breaks a day. The article notes other major cities like Chicago, Baltimore, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Miami, and cities across California also have similar programs.

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