CBP Braces for Hurricane Sandy from Virginia to Maine
There's not much more to do now but to wait.
Customs and Border Protection personnel from Virginia to Maine have taken necessary steps to prepare for Hurricane Sandy, whose eye is expected to make landfall late Monday to early Tuesday morning somewhere between Ocean City, Md, and Sandy Hook, N.J.
On Thursday, CBP activated its Lead Field Coordinator (LFC) construct. LFCs for FEMA Regions I, II and III are Boston Director of Field Operations (DFO) Kevin Weeks, New York DFO Robert E. Perez, and Baltimore DFO Michael J. Lovejoy, respectively.
"You can never be too prepared, but everybody is stepping up and pitching in," said Lovejoy. "Coordination and cooperation is essential and the relationships we have developed will be key. Timely and accurate communication is paramount and everybody has been great so far."
LFCs have already marshaled their command staffs, mustered personnel on accountability measures, and directed personnel to be ready to shelter aircraft, vehicles and critical electronic systems to weather the storm.
Vehicle fuel tanks are topped off. Generators tested. Port Recovery Trailers are loaded with equipment and ready to be deployed to repair ports of entry facilities.
LFCs and local management have already communicated with trade and travel stakeholders, including airport and seaport officials, and the U.S. Coast Guard, FEMA and other federal agencies, on business resumption planning.
Sandy has forced CBP to postpone its Trade Symposium, which was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
The eye of Hurricane Sandy is still more than a day away from making landfall, but LFCs remain focused.
"We'll continue to stress the import of our phone tree exercises and communications as they're for the full benefit of our employees," said Lovejoy. "We'll work continuously with our partners and stakeholders to ensure business is handled safely and resumes as quickly as possible."
As the storm approaches, CBP continues to urge the public to monitor local media and National Weather Center forecasts and heed state evacuation orders. Governors from North Carolina to Connecticut have declared a state of emergency. Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island have ordered mandatory evacuations from barrier islands and coastal communities.
CBP's highest priorities during hurricane responses are to promote life-saving and life-sustaining activities and the safe evacuation of people who are leaving an impacted area. As such, there will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with an officially ordered evacuation or sheltering related to Hurricane Sandy.
Some airlines have planned to cancel or divert international flights Monday into Washington Dulles International Airport. Domestic flights may also be impacted. CBP urges airline passengers to visit their carrier's website for hurricane related information.
Members of the trade community should continue to monitor CBP.gov for updates on port operations and on CBP's efforts to minimize disruptions.
Hurricanes rarely make landfall in the Northeast United States. Weather conditions are generally unfavorable to sustain hurricanes there. But CBP gained some valuable experience August 2011 when tropical storm Irene made landfall in Southeastern New Jersey.
Irene knocked out power to 7 million residents and businesses. Officials say Sandy, which meets with a wintry storm arriving from Canada and another storm from the Northeast Atlantic, may knock out power to 10 million or more. Forecasters also predict as much as 12 inches of rain, two feet of snow, heavy coastal and waterway flooding and sustained 40- to 50-mph winds. News media have dubbed this Frankenstorm.
"The experience gained and lessons learned under Irene has been extremely valuable and are now being applied to Sandy," said Lovejoy. "That's about the only good thing that came out of Irene. We are about to see how they assist us with dealing with Sandy, which appears to be a much bigger and menacing foe."
Revisit CBP.gov for continuing updates on CBP's preparations, response, and business resumption efforts following Hurricane Sandy.