FEMA mobilized as winter storms hit U.S.
The federal government is sending workers and equipment to at least 11 states as a winter storm bears down on a wide swath of the country, the White House said Tuesday.
With storm watches and blizzard warnings up over most of the continental U.S., the Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending its disaster response specialists in advance to Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The agency is also positioning supplies in advance, including water, meals, blankets, cots and generators.
Sending people and supplies into the field in advance of a storm -- regardless of whether it's expected to make a severe impact -- is one of the major operational changes made by FEMA in the wake of its botched response to Hurricane Katrina. Such deployments are made without formal disaster requests by governors, but state officials must agree to allow federal personnel to join them at state emergency operation centers.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate briefed President Obama by telephone about the federal government's coordination with local and state governments, the White House said.
Meanwhile, the government's main weather Web site appears to be suffering from an influx of traffic. Weather.gov, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has slowed, according to a spokesman. No further details were immediately available, but some users reported difficulty in calling up forecasts for certain cities.
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