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By Tara Lohan
It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.
Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.
The photos, first reported by CBS Wednesday after going viral on social media the day before, show potentially millions of water bottles sitting on a runway in Ceiba, Puerto Rico nearly a year after the storm.
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As Hurricane Florence Approaches, Document Shows Trump Admin Funneled Nearly $10 Million From FEMA to ICE
As Hurricane Florence threatens the East Coast, a newly released document shows that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) transferred almost $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show reported Tuesday night.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency was sorely unprepared to handle Hurricane Maria and the subsequent crisis in Puerto Rico, the agency admitted in an internal performance assessment memo released last week.
FEMA's after-action report details how the agency's warehouse on the island was nearly empty due to relief efforts from Hurricane Irma when Maria made landfall last September, with no cots or tarps and little food and water.
But it appears the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the agency that responds to hurricanes, flooding and wildfires, is ignoring a critical factor that exacerbates these natural disasters: climate change.
UPDATE: Since the release of NPR report and a flood of angry reactions from politicians, FEMA said it never intended to stop giving aid to Puerto Rico and will continue to hand out supplies for as long as necessary.
William Booher, an agency spokesman, told the New York Times that Wednesday was not the actual shut off date but rather an internal planning date to evaluate if the island could still justify needing assistance. Booher also told NPR that date "was mistakenly provided."
"This aid is not stopping," Booher told the Times. "There was no, and is no, current plan to stop providing these commodities, as long as there continues to be an identified need for them."
"The reality is that we just need to look around. Supermarkets are open, and things are going back to normal," Alejandro De La Campa, FEMA's director in Puerto Rico, told NPR. "If we're giving free water and food, that means that families are not going to supermarkets to buy."
The House Committee on Homeland Security abruptly cancelled Wednesday's hearing with FEMA Administrator Brock Long on the federal government's response and recovery efforts for recent disasters, including hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the wildfires in the West.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been highly critical President Trump and FEMA's relief efforts in Puerto Rico, arrived in Washington, DC yesterday after being invited to testify at the hearing. In a video posted to social media, she raised questions about the sudden cancellation.
I've always been fascinated by storms, particularly Puerto Rico's own history of them. I think it's because I was born in September 1960 during Hurricane Donna. In its wake, that storm left more than 100 dead in Humacao, the city where I am now a special collections librarian at the University of Puerto Rico.
In 1990, Israel Matos, the National Weather Service Forecast Officer in San Juan, told me that "the tropics are unpredictable." That comment only increased my interest in storms. Now, with the people of Puerto Rico still reeling from Hurricane Maria more than a month after it hit the island, his words seem prescient.
By Cathy Mazak
I'm so happy to be able to communicate with you again. As many of you know, I live in western Puerto Rico. In this post I want to tell you a little about my family's experience with Maria, and how you can help Puerto Rico.
On Thursday Sept. 21, when the sun came up, I looked out our front door at a wintery landscape. There was not one leaf on one tree in all the tropical forest that surrounds our property. Instead, the walls of my house were plastered with one-inch-by-one-inch pieces of leaves. It was as if they had been stripped off the trees, chopped in a food processor, and coated onto our house with a pressure washer.
On Wednesday, roughly two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, just 50 percent of Puerto Rico had access to drinking water and only 5.4 percent had electricity. That information was clearly displayed on Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) website on disaster relief efforts in the U.S. territory.
But the next day, as first noticed by the Washington Post, those two critical pieces of information were removed from the website.