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FEMA Responds to Deadly Outbreak of Tornadoes

As February 2012 ended and March 2012 began, severe weather spawned a deadly tornado outbreak in communities across Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee. FEMA, through its regional offices in Kansas City, Mo., Chicago, Ill., and Atlanta, Ga., closely monitored conditions in the affected Midwest states, staying in constant communication with state and local officials and federal partners at the National Weather Service forecast offices and deployed teams to support preliminary and joint damage assessments.

These FEMA assessments are an important step in identifying the extent of the damage caused by severe weather or other natural disasters, and help determine if additional federal support needs to be requested by the affected counties. As is standard practice, FEMA and its partners maintain teams on the ground in those hard-hit areas and remain prepared to deploy additional teams and resources if needed.

FEMA proactively deployed liaisons to the Indiana and Kentucky Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) to provide support to the states and assist in coordination efforts as the states continue to respond to the devastating storms. On the ground in Kentucky, Regional FEMA Administrator Phil May met with Emergency Management Director John W. Heltzel for updates on the state response efforts and to stage commodities (meals, water, cots, and blankets).

Additional regional FEMA administrators maintained contact with state and emergency management officials in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Mar. 2, 2012 Tornado Outbreak GOES

GOES satellite imagery of the band of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that swept across the Midwest and Appalachians on March 2, 2012. According to CNN, at least 36 people were killed, with the majority of the victims in Indiana and Kentucky. Image by Marit Jentoft-Nilsen, NOAA-NASA GOES Project

FEMA maintains supplies, including millions of liters of water, millions of meals, and hundreds of thousands of blankets, strategically located at distribution centers throughout the United States and its territories. A national Incident Support Base is established in coordination with the Department of Defense to stage such commodities in strategic locations close to the affected areas.

As the storms continued to grow stronger and the threats became even more widespread, President Barack Obama, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate reached out to the governors and citizens of the affected states to coordinate a response to the disasters, as well as express concern and offer condolences to families who had lost loved ones.

“I commend local and state first responders for their diligent and tireless efforts to protect lives and provide immediate assistance in the aftermath of these storms. Our priority continues to be to support local efforts to protect residents and communities,” said  Fugate. “This week, FEMA has teams on the ground to support states, local governments, and voluntary agencies in their efforts to assess the damages resulting from last week’s devastating storms.  FEMA also has teams providing support to emergency operations centers and is prepared to deploy additional teams and resources if needed by the states.”


Timeline of Events

Feb. 28:

  • Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback declares a state of emergency, making available state government resources, such as personnel, equipment, and facilities to support and assist disaster response operations.
  • Incident Management Assistance Teams are on site in Indiana and Kentucky, a Mobile Emergency Response Support team is on site in Kentucky, and community relations teams are proactively deployed to Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia to assist with situational awareness following the storms in support of the states and governors, as requested.

Feb. 29:

  • Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declares a state of emergency and orders the National Guard deployed to support local law enforcement agencies with emergency coordination and recovery.
  • The Missouri Business Emergency Operations Center, located at the Missouri State EOC, is virtually activated to facilitate two-way communications between the private sector, SEMA, and FEMA.
  • In Branson, the state of Missouri and the Small Business Administration form a team of private sector specialists, a FEMA private sector representative, and a FEMA Disability Integration specialist to conduct assessments of impacts on the business community and preliminary damage of needs of people with disabilities and those with access and functional needs.

March 1:

  • As the severe weather continues, central Tennessee, central Kentucky, parts of Indiana, and southern Ohio are issued high-risk warnings.
  • In Kentucky, local states of emergency go into effect for Muhlenberg, Larue, and Morgan counties.

March 2:

  • Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear declares a state of emergency.
  • FEMA deploys teams to eight Illinois counties and affected regions of West Virginia to assist with joint preliminary damage assessments with other state and local personnel.
  • Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels declares a state of emergency.
  • FEMA Regional Administrator Andrew Velasquez is in constant communication with Indiana emergency management officials. FEMA deploys a liaison officer to the Indiana EOC to provide support to the state and to assist in coordination efforts as the state continues to respond to the devastating storm outbreak. An Incident Management Assistance Team is deployed to the Indiana EOC.

March 3:

  • FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C., is activated and its Chicago Regional Response Coordination Center is fully activated to support state requests for assistance.
  • Regional Response Coordination Centers in Kansas City and Atlanta are partially activated and monitoring requests for assistance.
  • Incident Management Assistance Teams are proactively staged in Indiana and Kentucky to assist in coordination efforts as the states continue to respond and begin recovery.
  • A FEMA liaison to the Indiana Emergency Operations Center participates in aerial assessments of the areas hardest hit in Indiana.
  • As of 9:00 a.m., the Department of Energy reports more than 139,000 customers without power in the affected states.
  • More than 15 voluntary organizations active in disaster provide emergency assistance, including sheltering, feeding, distribution of emergency supplies, debris cleanup, and mental and spiritual care to affected citizens.

March 5:

  • Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) Team proactively deploys to Kentucky to provide secure and non-secure voice, video, and information services; operations; and logistics support to response operations, as needed.
  • FEMA preliminary damage assessments are under way in Kentucky, Illinois, and West Virginia.
  • FEMA deploys teams to Ohio to assist with joint preliminary damage assessments with other state and local personnel.
  • Community relations teams deploy to Tennessee to assist with situational awareness following the storms in support of the state and governor, as requested.
  • FEMA continues to monitor winter weather conditions across the Mississippi Valley that may impact response operations or disaster assessments.