CBP deploys resources to Florida, assesses damage, conducts search, rescue, recovery efforts
Although Hurricane Irma has made its way through Florida, CBP’s extensive operation in the hurricane’s aftermath continues without letup.
Work now focuses on assessments, security, support and accounting for employees. All 3,560 of CBP’s employees in Florida were accounted for as of Wednesday.
CBP’s Lead Field Coordinator, Diane Sabatino dispatched 60 officers on Monday to Puerto Rico to assess damage, assist with security and help the ports resume business. The group included CBP officers and Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue (BORSTAR) agents. Personnel from the Office of Information and Technology are helping to restore communication links.
The ports at Savannah, Brunswick, Tampa, Everglades and Charleston and Miami opened Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia, remains closed because of extensive flooding, downed trees and no electricity, but the center is scheduled to open Sept. 25. The FLETC in Charleston, South Carolina, remains closed and will begin operating Sept. 18. CBP officers and agents from ports across the southeast are assisting employees with debris and tree removal, tarps and generators.
CBP officers, agents and agriculture specialists are assisting in evacuating employees from St. Thomas, one of the hardest hit locations. CBP’s disaster assistance recovery team is working with the State Department to expedite the withdrawal.
Twenty-four Air and Marine Operations aircraft are now conducting damage assessments in the Florida Keys, where ten-foot storm surges flooded many areas. To help restore communications, a CBP communications vehicle arrived Wednesday in Marathon Key, the hardest hit of the keys. The vehicle is outfitted with an array of telecommunications equipment, said Dario Lugo, manager of emergency operations center at headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Before Irma tore through the region, a crew flying AMO manned and unmanned aircraft used synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to capture a map of Florida infrastructure to compare it to a second SAR map taken after the hurricane passed through the state. Analysts then are able to overlay the post-hurricane map on the pre-hurricane map, revealing any destruction to infrastructure. This technique provides emergency managers and other state and local authorities an extremely accurate and comprehensive analysis of destruction to inform search, rescue and recovery decisions.
Yesterday, a crew flying AMO’s UAS mapped Interstates 75 and 95, checking for flooded areas, damage, motorists needing assistance and general road conditions, said Marine Interdiction Agent Mike Nagle.
As of this morning, AMO agents conducted 51 response and recovery missions and rescued five people.
Fuel shortages remain extensive and at emergency levels. More than 66 percent of the gas stations in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale remain empty. Tackling the shortage is a CBP team, who are fielding requests from fuel and energy providers such as energy companies, refineries and the Departments of Defense and Energy to waive the Jones Act. The Jones Act requires transportation of merchandise, including fuel, between United States ports be accomplished by vessels that are U.S.-built, owned and documented.
The Secretary of Homeland Security signed the Jones Act waiver. A second waiver has been requested to prevent further disruption in gasoline, diesel and jet fuel supplies.
Currently, CBP is eyeing Hurricane Jose, now about 450 miles north-northeast of Grand Turk Island moving westward about 5 miles per hour and packing 75 mile-per-hour winds.