FEMA Director urges Floridians to heed warnings ahead of Hurricane Idalia

August 29, 2023

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell spoke during the daily White House Press Briefing on Tuesday about preparedness ahead of Hurricane Idalia. 

Idalia is expected to make landfall as a category 3 storm on the Gulf Coast of Florida on Wednesday morning. That means winds of 111 to 129 miles per hour.

“As the President said to Florida Governor DeSantis in his own conversations yesterday, FEMA and the entire federal family are activated to support the people of Florida,” Criswell said during Tuesday’s briefing. “The President also quickly approved an emergency declaration in advance of the storm in Florida, turning on the many tools that are available at my disposal to provide the governor any support or resources he may need in advance of landfall and after.”

The emergency declaration, she explained, has allowed FEMA to “pre-stage” people and equipment in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, including search-and-rescue assistance teams and disaster survival assistance teams. 

Warehouses full of food, water, and medical supplies are also ready to be distributed, according to Criswell.

“But we are not in this alone,” the FEMA Director added. “It’s critical that the people that are in the path of this storm are also prepared. And I know that the people of Florida are no strangers to storms, and I encourage all Floridians to take this storm seriously.”

She noted that Idalia is already “very strong and it is expected to strengthen” due to high surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Very few people can survive in the path of a major storm surge,” she warned, adding that this storm will be deadly “if we don’t get out of harm’s way and take it seriously. So I asked all Floridians to be vigilant and heed the warnings of your local officials.”

She advised all those in the storm’s path to have a plan to communicate with their family and loved ones, charge their cell phones and the batteries in any other devices they may have, and ensure that they are receiving emergency alerts. 

“And most important, please listen to the warnings of local officials,” Criswell reiterated. “If they tell you to evacuate please do so immediately,” which she noted doesn’t necessarily mean having to travel far.

She then switched topics to talk about FEMA’s disaster relief fund, saying it currently has a balance of just $3.4 billion after tackling other natural disasters this year, like the wildfires in Maui.

“So today I am directing the implementation of immediate needs funding. This means that FEMA will prioritize available funding for critical response efforts to Idalia and the Maui fires, and any other extreme weather events that may come our way without interruption.”

She stressed, however, that immediate needs funding is not a permanent solution. “Congress must work with us on the supplemental request that the Administration has made on the behalf of FEMA,” Criswell insisted.

PHOTO: White House Press Briefing

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