Transcript: Press briefing Q&A on Hurricane Sandy with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

Transcript of press briefing Q&A on Hurricane Sandy with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Oct. 31, 2012:

Question:
Secretary Napolitano. Administrator Fugate on the past calls has said that the $3.6 billion in the Disaster Relief Fund is enough for this storm. But since this is so early in the fiscal year, are you concerned that a lot of that money will be used up for this storm and you won’t have enough for other disasters throughout the fiscal year?

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:
The Disaster Relief Fund is funded. We’ve got the resources we need right now. We do not anticipate that the DRF itself is going to be a limitation at all on the response.

Question:
Can you provide some more details on this generators issue? Can you give some numbers on how many generators are actually on site providing power at this stage and generally where they are and how many more generators do you expect to have deployed?

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:
…Let me just give you some rough numbers, and these are the large generators for use at facilities like the hospitals, nursing homes, things of that sort. There are 252, I think, deployed now and another 280+ that are enroute into the affected areas. And those are just the ones under the aegis of the [Army] Corps of Engineers. I think work is being done seeking other generators available from other sources.

Question:
Secretary LaHood. From your experience when you look at New York City and what it’s going through in terms of its transportation issues right now, how long do you think it will up and running fully?

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
I think there are already some transit facilities that are running. I know that there are – transit is running to 42nd street and there are about 300 buses there that are going to deliver people around the remainder of the city. And I know that there’s some transit running up to the river, from Brooklyn to the river and there are buses to deliver people over to Manhattan. So there is some transit capabilities –

Question:
But back to fully function pre the storm?

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
I have no idea. It depends on how long it takes to pump out the subways. Those subways not only need to be pumped out, the equipments need to be looked at and repaired because there’s saltwater in there.

So what we’re doing is – we’re providing – well, the city is providing the kind of service – New Jersey Transit and New York Transit and the city are providing transportation in the best ways as they can and as these tunnels get pumped out, obviously subway service will be resumed.

Question:
I was surprised that New Jersey wasn’t listed along with New York and Rhode Island for the quick release transportation dollars. It was the hardest hit state. Is it because you’re waiting for them to assess the damage and apply or what is being done with regards to helping New Jersey’s roads and transits?

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
Well, obviously you’ve seen the Governor of New Jersey running all over the state making assessments, and the President and the Governor are doing that as we speak. And as soon as the Governor has some idea of what he believes the costs are, I’m sure he’ll communicate that to us, we’ll look at it very quickly, and respond.

Question:
Secretary LaHood. Has the FAA [Federal Aviation Agency] looked at damage from the storm at some of the big area airports like JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, and whether all those runways are going to be back in operation soon or whether they think there’s some damage there that can’t be fixed straight away?

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
There’s 3 runways open at JFK. They should be receiving over 200 flights today. LaGuardia is closed because one of the runways was impacted by flooding. I believe Newark – it was not open this morning but I believe it’s probably open by now and receiving and departing flights going in and out of there.

Kennedy’s pretty much open. 3 runways.

LaGuardia’s closed while they determine what they will do with the runway that’s flooded.

And Newark is open.

Question:
Secretary LaHood. Can you talk at all about what the FTA can do for New York City rail in terms of funding. You’ve talked about a coordinating role but there are some estimates that it could take tens of billions of dollars to get service fully restored. Will FTA be releasing any funds the way the Federal Highway Administration has done?

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
That’s a good question particularly given the fact that we have this emergency highway money. But FTA in the past has always worked with FEMA to provide disaster relief support and that’s what we’re encouraging again to coordinate efforts. But we’re also looking at providing rail cars and buses – we’re on the phone now trying to determine how many buses and how many railcars we might be able to provide from other transit agencies and bus companies and so forth. But as far as funding goes, we’re encouraging people to work with FEMA and through FEMA as they have always done in the past.

You know there was a language included in MAP-21 but there’s no money. But we believe the money can be made available through FEMA as it has been the case in the past and that’s what we’re encouraging.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:
Just reiterating that all our efforts here are in support of the states and the localities so they’re telling us what their unmet needs are and we are working feverishly to get those unmet needs met so that transportation system is up and running. And it may not be for a while like it was before the storm. That’s a long-range project. But what we are focused on is getting people moving to and from so that they can to and from work, to and from school. That also needs to be worked on in terms of getting reopened so that these communities can begin resuming the normal pace of life.

Question:
Is it clear that New York and Rhode Island are the only two states that have requested emergency transportation funds? Other states may request funds – how much total do you think will be spent in emergency transportation?

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
We did receive a request an hour or two ago from North Carolina and we’re looking at that.

I don’t have the slightest idea [on the total that will be spent in emergency transportation relief fund]. We’ve already allocated $13 million and we’re looking at North Carolina as we speak and hopefully be able to approve that very quickly this afternoon. And we await other requests – obviously from New Jersey and we’ll see what some of these other states come up with.

Question:
What are the numbers of storm-related deaths?

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:
As of this morning, there were 19 confirmed…And that information will actually be updated as these tragedies are confirmed and the loss of life is confirmed.

In addition to loss of life, many people have lost their homes, their businesses – lost everything they have. So we are working day and night and moving heaven and earth to do everything we can to help these individuals get back on their feet and help these affected communities and states get through this storm.

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One Comment on “Transcript: Press briefing Q&A on Hurricane Sandy with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

  1. Pingback: FEMA and the federal government's role in responding to Hurricane Sandy | What The Folly?!

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