With recovery from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey underway, the Department of Transportation and all operating agencies continue to work closely with officials in Texas and Louisiana as well as Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security to assess the destruction caused by the storm as the region moves from rescue to recovery process.
DOT’s contributions to the disaster rescue and recovery effort has and will encompass financial assistance, deployment of personnel, emergency regulatory relief and all the tools we have which can be helpful, according to DOT officials.
DOT’s Crisis Management Center has been fully staffed 24/7 since before Harvey made landfall. Per the President’s directive, DOT has been coordinating closely with the FEMA and is providing support to the National and Regional Response Coordination Centers, as well as directly to local and state officials and transportation stakeholders in the affected areas.
On August 29, within an hour of a request from Texas Governor Greg Abbot, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao directed the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to make $25 million in Emergency Relief funds immediately available to restore emergency access and initiate critical repairs to damaged roads and bridges. The Department will make available more than $100 million in financial support to meet the infrastructure needs of Texas and other affected states. DOT has approximately 40 staff from the modal administrations on the ground coordinating, getting transit assets back up and running, finding drivers for buses and trucks etc.
On August 31, Secretary Chao traveled to the region with Vice-President Mike Pence to survey the damage left behind by Hurricane Harvey.
While on site in Texas, and in response to one of the major emerging problems, the lack of fuel, Secretary Chao signed an Emergency Declaration removing restrictions on fuel delivery, so that fuel trucks from 27 states and jurisdictions can deliver much needed energy to Texas and other hurricane-impacted areas as quickly as possible.
This was the second of two declarations issued by the Department. Secretary Chao also issued a Regional Declaration of Emergency to help alleviate a potential shortage of available drivers who are critical to delivering necessary supplies to the impacted communities in Texas, Louisiana, and other states.
On September 1, the Maritime Administration (MARAD) activated two National Defense Reserve Fleet vessels for a FEMA mission to support relief efforts in Texas. The State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College’s training ship, EMPIRE STATE VI, and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s training ship, KENNEDY, received orders to set sail within 10 days for the four- to five-day transit from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast of Texas.
MARAD also received notification from FEMA to activate the Texas Maritime Academy’s training vessel GENERAL RUDDER, which will remain in-port at Galveston. Once moored on site, the self-contained vessel will support recovery efforts by providing power, housing, food and water to first responders. Combined, these three vessels can house over 1,200 workers thereby freeing up local hotel resources for displaced individuals.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has had over 1,000 personnel tasked with the storm effort, including specialized Air Traffic Management support to facilitate Search and Rescue missions.
A team from the Federal Highways Administration has been on the ground before the storm made landfall, providing technical assistance to the TXDOT. Roads in the impacted areas continue to be inundated with water, with many closures.
“The FHWA stands ready to deploy more than 250 engineers who can be on the scene within 48 hours to begin expedited inspections of roads and bridges in the affected area,” FHWA said in a news release. “We are learning more by the hour and are working with our state partners to assess conditions as quickly as the water recedes.”
DOT has established a Routing Assistance Hotline to support the transport of federal and state response personnel, equipment, and goods into Texas and Louisiana.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is actively engaged in monitoring disruption to off-shore gas and petroleum production and distribution.