On eve of hurricane season, Obama pushes FEMA app, asks residents to 'stay vigilant'

"We can't control the weather, but we can control our responses to it," Obama said, noting the impact of climate change on storm patterns.
By Doug G. Ware  |  May 31, 2016 at 3:12 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 31 (UPI) -- With more major storms expected this hurricane season, President Barack Obama on Tuesday met with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess the situation and formulate a preparedness plan to get ahead of possible disasters in the coming months.

Obama met with FEMA Director Craig Fugate at the agency's National Response Coordination Center Tuesday afternoon, one day before the official start of the hurricane season. The president asked for an update regarding how the relief agency would respond to a threatening hurricane or tropical storm.

One of the points Obama emphasized during the meeting was getting out of town if a serious storm bears down somewhere in the United States between now and the end of the Atlantic hurricane season in November.

"If your local authorities ask you to evacuate, you have to do it. Don't wait," he said. "My important responsibility as President of the United States is to keep our people safe."

Obama also warned that the effects of climate change are expected to have a serious impact on storms going forward, making them "more powerful" and "more devastating."

"We can't control the weather, but we can control our responses to it," he said.

The president learned about upgrades and new tools that will allow experts to better track hurricanes, and discussed funding for the emergency agency. Citizens, though, Obama noted, also play a vital role in their own survival.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks as he receives a briefing on the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season at FEMA's National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Obama advised residents to be vigilant this season, as experts expect multiple major storms near the nation's Atlantic coasts. Photo by Kevin Dietsch

"It is every citizen's responsibility to be prepared for a disaster," he said. "That means taking proactive steps, like having an evacuation plan, having a fully stocked disaster supply kit."

Although hurricane season officially starts June 1, strong storms often form before then. Last year, the first system formed in May. In January, Hurricane Alex, near Bermuda, became the first of the 2016 season -- and Tropical Storm Bonnie, off the Carolina coast, followed last week.

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it expected about four major storms between now and November.

"If you need information about how to put together an evacuation plan, how to put together a disaster preparedness kit, we've got an app for everything now," Obama said. "We have a FEMA app in English and in Spanish to help you prepare your family for a disaster.

"I would encourage every American, no matter where you live, to stay vigilant, to check Ready.gov ... check that regularly to make sure your family is prepared for severe weather."

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