This Insight provides a brief overview of emergency and major declarations and federal assistance programs potentially available to those affected by Tropical Storm Barry. It also lists resources for forecast information, hurricane and flooding information, and selected Congressional Research Service reports on federal emergency management policy.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued watches and warnings for Tropical Storm Barry, a slow-moving storm in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Current forecasts predict the storm's landfall to occur along the Louisiana coast on Saturday, July 13, 2019. The storm is expected to result in high winds, heavy rains, and storm surge to the north-central Gulf Coast. According to NOAA, the slow-moving nature of the storm will result in a long-duration heavy rainfall threat along the central Gulf Coast and inland through the lower Mississippi Valley. Tropical Storm Barry is expected to arrive during a period of unusually heavy flooding on the Mississippi River. There are concerns Mississippi River flooding and storm surge may converge to create exceptional flooding conditions.
At the time of this writing, the President has issued an emergency declaration for Louisiana in anticipation for Tropical Storm Barry. Emergency declarations for other states may be forthcoming. As authorized under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended; 42 U.S.C. §§5121 et seq.), the President may issue an emergency declaration in anticipation of an incident to support state and local efforts to save lives, protect property, and lessen or avert the incident from becoming a major disaster. If Tropical Storm Barry makes landfall, and the storm warrants further federal assistance, the President may issue a major disaster declaration. This allows for a broad range of federal assistance programs to be made available to state and local governments, private nonprofit organizations, and individuals through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies.
FEMA provides three major categories of assistance for major disasters:
The forms of assistance authorized by a major disaster declaration may vary by the designated areas, per the declaration (subject to amendment). The President can also amend major disaster declarations to decrease the state cost-share requirements for some PA grants.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the primary source of flood insurance coverage for residential properties. Homeowners and tenants with NFIP flood insurance can make flood damage claims using the normal NFIP claims process. FEMA may institute a claims process specific to a particular flood event at a later date; for example, FEMA extended the proof of loss deadline for Hurricane Florence (2018) from 60 days to 1 year.
As of March 2019, the NFIP had $5.551 billion available ($4.622 billion in the National Flood Insurance Fund and $929 million in the reserve fund), as well as $9.9 billion of borrowing authority from the Treasury and up to $1.62 billion of reinsurance for a single flood event with losses over $4 billion.