By Chad Eller
South Atlantic Division
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division held a hurricane response tabletop exercise to help prepare for response in the event of a hurricane making landfall in the southeast.
The Corps is part of the federal government's unified national response to disasters and emergencies and assists the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA as the primary agency for public works and engineering-related emergency support. The Corps also repairs federally authorized flood control, flood fighting, and hurricane protection projects.
“Think of this as war games for hurricanes,” said Donnie Walker Deputy Chief, Readiness and Contingency Operations. “You have thousands of people without water, food, power and gas, people arriving at emergency shelters with medical needs and backed up highways as evacuees move inland. When you have so many federal and local agencies addressing a disaster how you prepare is the difference in someone living or dying.”
Some of the missions that could be assigned to the Corps by FEMA include debris management, temporary housing, temporary roofing, emergency power, infrastructure assessment, and support to urban search and rescue.
“This year we are conducting a particularly challenging tabletop exercise,” said Frank Ford, Chief of Readiness and Contingency Operations. “The scenario is that 2 hurricanes are expected to land nearly simultaneously. This is something we experienced in 2004 when Hurricane Jeanne developed into a Category 1 on September 16th and Hurricane Karl became a Category 4 on September 20th. When a hurricane hits we have 3 priorities: support immediate emergency response, sustain lives with critical commodities, temporary emergency power and other needs and initiate recovery efforts by assessing and restoring critical infrastructure. Our table top exercises ensure we can accomplish those priorities.”
Hurricane season is June 1-Nov. 30, with the peak threat period from mid-August through October. Colorado State University released a study in December of 2021 predicting 13–16 named storms, 6–8 hurricanes and 2–3 major hurricanes this year.
Although Atlanta doesn’t experience direct impacts, tropical storm conditions can be felt in the metro area. Tornadoes that spin off from the hurricanes can be common even miles from a storm’s landfall. Travel plans are frequently impacted during these events due to evacuees from other states so whether traveling or staying at home always have a severe weather plan that includes water, food, flashlights, radio and an evacuation route if you need to leave your home.
"We are prepared and ready to respond to a hurricane," said Brig. Gen. Jason Kelly, South Atlantic Division commander. "Assisting our local communities is one of our primary missions and shows the value that the Army Corps of Engineers brings to the Nation and to the region," Kelly added. "The Corps' regional response is coordinated and managed by the South Atlantic Division in Atlanta, in cooperation with our many federal, state, and local partners. All of us are dedicated to ensuring that the needs of our local communities are met."