Obama Visits FEMA, Pressures Government to Vote

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
October 8, 2013; 9:32 AM ET
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President Barack Obama makes a statement about the government shutdown during a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters in Washington, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Update on Oct. 7, 2013:

President Barack Obama visited the FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C., unannounced Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, to thank employees for their work amid the shutdown, according to the Associated Press.

Some FEMA employees on furlough were called back into the office to aid in preparations for Tropical Storm Karen's landfall in the Southeast.

After a weekend of crazy weather as a blizzard blanketed Wyoming and South Dakota, tornadoes and thunderstorms pummeled portions of the North Central and South Central regions, and Hurricane Karen hit the Southeast, the importance of severe weather preparation despite the shutdown proved to be of high importance.

"Not only is it making it more difficult more us to respond to potential natural disasters," President Obama said, while speaking at FEMA Monday.

While Karen is no longer a tropical storm, the system will continue to threaten the mid-Atlantic coast and the East later this week with heavy rain as its moisture moves up the coast.

Despite his thankful speech to unpaid workers at the organization, the President also expressed his disdain with the current standoff in voting with regards to the shutdown, urging the House of Representatives to vote today.

"Just vote," President Obama said. "Let every member of Congress vote their conscious and they can determine whether or not they want to shut the government down."

Originally Published on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013

As Tropical Storm Karen eyes the Gulf coast, threatening to unleash flooding rainfall, local emergency management agencies are scrambling to finish last-minute preparations in the midst of a government shutdown.

The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has promised to maintain all personnel and websites which are critical to protecting lives and property.

Federal employees which have been deemed non-essential have not reported to work since Oct. 1, leaving the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and local National Weather Service forecasting offices in the path of Karen responsible for issuing all storm-related information.

As the tropical storm takes aim at the southern U.S., readying for a late-weekend landfall, a near-zero-visibility blizzard has pummeled the Plains and more severe weather is threatening the nation's midsection.

Concerns are mounting over what emergency response will be available should storms result in a disaster for any area, as the shutdown did not exclude the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Though non-essential FEMA employees were furloughed on Tuesday, the agency maintains that it is monitoring the conditions of Tropical Storm Karen through its regional offices in Atlanta, Ga., and Denton, Texas, and will keep in close coordination with coastal officials.

"Gulf Coast residents in potentially impacted areas should take steps now to be prepared and follow the direction of local officials," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said. "FEMA will continue to support our state and local partners as they prepare for any potential impacts."

The agency has since re-activated the Hurricane Liaison Team to aid in the responsibility of warning against Karen. Additionally, they have recalled staff necessary to deploy four incident management assistance teams (IMAT), including a national incident management assistance team (IMAT), to potentially affected states.

Liaison officers are currently positioned in emergency operations centers in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi to assist with the coordination of planning and response operations. Additional teams are on standby and available for deployment as needed and requested.

As of Saturday afternoon, the projected path of the storm threatened the possibility of two landfalls occurring, one over southeastern Louisiana and one between southern Mississippi to the western part of the Florida Panhandle.

@mrgunn tweeted: "Late-season tropical storm hits the Gulf Coast while FEMA is shut down. (hope it's not a bad storm!)"

More Relevant Tweets and Social Media Reaction

Crucial Weather Warnings, Cleanup Will Continue Despite Shutdown
AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center
Karen Heads Toward Upper Gulf Coast

Flooding rainfall is expected where landfall is made, as well as winds capable of causing minor property damage, downed trees and sporadic power outages.

Local emergency management officials within those regions are bracing themselves for an impact.

A crane lowers a flood gate into Hero Canal, as part of the hurricane protection system protecting the greater New Orleans area, in anticipation of Tropical Storm Karen, in Belle Chasse, La., Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

"We are monitoring the storm's progress and forecast very closely. We are encouraging our residents to do the same and take the necessary precautions such as get disaster supplies, prepare their property for high winds, rain and minor storm surge," John J. Kilcullen, director of plans and operations for the Mobile County Emergency Management said.

"The government shutdown has had no impact on the frequency of communications with our local Weather Forecast Office. We do two webinars daily with them and they are available 24/7 if we need additional information."

Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations, such as The American Red Cross, are preparing to respond.

"We are mobilizing trained workers, supplies and equipment. Red Cross response vehicles from Louisiana to Georgia are on alert and volunteers are ready to open shelters if needed," the organization said.

Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Jillian MacMath at macmathj@accuweather.com, follow her on Twitter @Accu_Jillian or Google+. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook and Google+.


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