Homeland Security chief: We’re ready for Dorian

Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. | Salvador Melendez/AP Photo

Responding to concerns about its handling of past storms, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Sunday morning 3,000 people have been deployed across various government agencies for Hurricane Dorian.

“We’ve had a very experienced emergency response leadership team,” he added on ABC. “It’s a battle-hardened team right behind me here.”

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He said half of them were direct FEMA employees, and there was a lot of time to position resources in states like Florida and Georgia.

McAleenan added Hurricane Dorian is no longer expected to make landfall along the coast of Florida or the Carolinas.

He told Martha Raddatz of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that most predictive models show the hurricane will stall about 60 miles offshore. It’s still “dangerous” and there will be a prolonged effect on the coastline, he added.

“We expect hurricane force winds to potentially hit the coast of Florida and then a prolonged rain event combined with storm surge that’s going to be very difficult as the storm starts to move northward,” he said.

Earlier Sunday morning, Hurricane Dorian was upgraded to a Category 5 storm after reaching maximum sustained winds of 160 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm also hit the northern islands of the Bahamas, which started to experience hurricane-force winds and torrential rain.

In 2017, the Federal Emergency Management Agency came under fire for being stretched thin and for its handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Deputy FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor — who is serving as acting administrator — told Congress in June that the agency was shorthanded: “We’re probably short a few thousand employees.”

That has been fixed, McAleenan said Sunday, and federal agencies were “fully prepared.”

Hurricane Dorian comes at a time when FEMA doesn’t have a Senate-confirmed administrator. President Donald Trump said Friday he was OK with that. This will be the first hurricane Gaynor has overseen.

Ahead of Trump’s Sunday visit to the FEMA headquarters in Washington, McAleenan told Raddatz: “The president’s going to make that sure we’re on the same page, that we’re tracking this and that we’re going to be ready.”