By DaQuan Lawrence,
Special to the AFRO
FEMA Administrator Criswell spoke with the AFRO about winter weather and holiday travel in a one-on-one interview today.
With more than 150 million people across the U.S. currently expecting some form of inclement weather this holiday weekend, Criswell discussed best practices for Americans to follow if they encounter emergency circumstances.
Many places around the country are currently under winter weather and wind chill alerts as the National Weather Service warns citizens to brace for what they call a “once in a generation type event.” Airports around the country have been canceling flights.
“In anticipation of winter weather arriving to the Chicagoland area, airlines at O’Hare have proactively canceled nearly 540 flights,” airport officials announced Thursday afternoon.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), snow and ice has caused an average delay of 159 minutes, nearly three hours, at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The FAA also said that aircraft departing from Minneapolis, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth and Dallas Love airports will require spraying and de-icing fluid for safe travel.
With the FAA warning of flight delays due to visibility issues, LaGuardia Airport in New York City tweeted an alert that it expects flights to be impacted due to forecasts of heavy rain and strong winds in the region.
On Thursday, December 22, President Biden warned Americans traveling for the Christmas holiday weekend to leave early if possible, to be careful and to remain vigilant.
“I encourage everyone, everyone to please heed the local warnings,” Biden said, sharing that information can be found on Weather.gov.
Criswell is advising people across the nations to pay attention to the local and regional weather advisories for any special requirements that may be needed due to inclement weather.
“I think the biggest thing that people need to do is make sure that they understand what the weather risk is– where they are at and where they are going– especially during this time when people are traveling to see family for the holidays,” Criswell told the AFRO.
“FEMA works directly with the states to support them and understand what their needs are. Local first responders, firefighters and local emergency managers, will be the ones that are going to be able to help with any critical situations.”
Around the nation, state and municipal leaders have taken action to notify members of the public of the anticipated winter storm circumstances. In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers declared an energy emergency in the state due to the winter conditions, while Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear also issued a declaration of an emergency in the state of Kentucky due to the expected severe winter storm.
In Portland, OR, Mayor Ted Wheeler issued a similar state of emergency declaration due to forecasts of cold weather and snow that started on December 21, 2022. Multnomah County, Oregon and the City of Portland plan to open four severe weather shelters for as long as conditions persist.
“I really encourage everyone to take a look at Ready.gov to find out the types of resources they should have in their vehicles in cases where someone is stranded. This weather can be life threatening,” Criswell continued.
The Washington D.C. region is anticipating an Arctic cold front on entering Christmas weekend on Friday, December 23. A Wind Advisory has also been declared for the majority of the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region with anticipated wind gusts up to 50 mph.
Regarding expected curfews around the nations and early business closings due to weather, Administrator Criswell mentioned that such decisions would be made at a local level.
“Those are local decisions, so I would have to defer to the area that they live in. People should listen to the advice and the information local officials are putting out there” Criswell said.
In addition to FEMA’s website (FEMA.gov), Criswell encouraged civilians to download the FEMA app and get information.
“Your local emergency manager may also have websites that have information, and local jurisdictions will have their own alert system,” Criswell said.
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