FEMA Administrator Visits Sunny Orlando as Rhode Island Deals With Worst Flooding in 200 Years

By Penny Starr | April 1, 2010 | 12:07 PM EDT

William Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Photo from FEMA Web site)

(CNSNews.com) – On Wednesday, one day after President Barack Obama issued an emergency declaration for flood-stricken Rhode Island authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency “to coordinate all disaster relief efforts” for the state, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate was in sunny Orlando, Fla., giving a speech.

FEMA on Thursday told CNSNews.com that Fugate had been in Florida this week, attending a hurricane preparation conference, but despite repeated inquiries from CNSNews.com, administration spokesmen would not say specifically where Fugate was as of Thursday morning, or whether he had any plans to go to R.I. FEMA's statement said that Fugate’s deputy would go to R.I.
In response to phone inquiries to the FEMA press office and an email inquiry  to FEMA Press Secretary Brad Carroll, specifically asking where Fugate was on Thursday and whether he intended to visit R.I., Carroll issued a written statement to CNSNews.com.

The statement said Fugate "has been in Florida this week" but did not state specifically where he was on Thursday or whether he intended to visit R.I.

Carroll's statement said: "The FEMA Administrator has been in Florida this week attending the National Hurricane Conference, meeting with key partners as we prepare for the upcoming Hurricane Season.  He remains in contact with Secretary Napolitano, state and local officials, Congressional representatives and first responders on the ground as we work to support the ongoing response to the flooding.  Rich Serino, the Deputy Administrator at FEMA, a career first responder and Boston native, will travel to Rhode Island in support of Secretary Napolitano tomorrow as they survey the damage and meet with state and local officials to make sure that they have the resources they need as we confront these floods.”
FEMA Administrator Fugate formerly served as director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.  He and his wife, FEMA says, are from Gainesville, Fla.

A devastated neighborhood in West Warwick, R.I., seen on Wednesday, March 31, 2010. Rhode Island rivers overflowed their banks after three days of record breaking rains. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Gov. Don Carcieri described the flooding in Rhode Island as the worst in the state in 200 years. In addition to rivers overflowing their banks, state officials are worried about the stress being placed on old dams. They are also worried about an environmental catastrophe because of raw sewage flowing from flooded treatment plants into Narragansett Bay.
Part of I-95, the major arterial Interstate highway running up the East Coast of the United States, remained closed through Providence on Thursday morning because of flooding. And while sunshine is in Rhode Island’s forecast, flood warnings were still in effect as of Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service predicted a sunny day Thursday with a high temperature of 82 degrees in Orlando, Fla., where FEMA Director Fugate was known to be on Wednesday.

A tow truck operator pulls a car out of a flooded road in Exeter, R.I., on Wednesday, March 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Joe Giblin)

On Thursday morning, Department of Homeland Security Press Secretary Clark Stevens would not give CNSNews.com an on-the-record answer to the question of where Fugate was on Thursday, or whether he planned to visit Rhode Island.
In a Tuesday press release announcing President Obama’s emergency declaration for Rhode Island, the White House said, “Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.”
FEMA teams are now in R.I.—even if the the FEMA administrator is not.
DHS released a statement on Thursday that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano would visit the state on Friday.