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HomeNewsLocal governmentU.S. Army North, FEMA and Partners Train for Unprecedented Hurricane Season

U.S. Army North, FEMA and Partners Train for Unprecedented Hurricane Season

U.S. Army North stages a practice hurricane response during the 2024 Hurricane Rehearsal of Concept drill at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, June 4. The Hurricane ROC Drill prepares ARNORTH and other federal agencies counter such disasters and safeguard American citizens. (U.S. Army photo by Christopher Grissett)

Ahead of what will likely be an active hurricane season, U.S. Army North trains to support civilian federal agencies in timely and effective disaster response. More than 150 military and civilian partners joined U.S. Army North – in person and virtually – for a Hurricane Rehearsal of Concept (ROC) Drill on Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston on June 4.

“We are being watched every day to see how we handle these types of crises,” said Lt. Gen. John R. Evans, Jr., U.S. Army North commander. “The more decisive we are in our response, the more pause that gives [the enemy] when trying to stir something up in the homeland.”

The rehearsal coordinated local, state, and federal response efforts in preparation for the upcoming hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to November 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released projections of 17 to 25 named storms in 2024, a 75 percent increase from the standing 30-year average. Major contributors to these conditions, which NOAA calls “above-normal hurricane activity,” include La Niña and above-average ocean temperatures, according to the press release.

The first scenario depicted in the ROC drill anticipated Hurricane Alberto striking the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm and subsequently making landfall along the Virginia coast. To simulate the demands of competing requirements, the scenario also included a second storm system, Hurricane Beryl, impacting the Gulf Coast, the press release stated.

“The islands are virtually unprotected from the big storms. When they get hit, regardless of the magnitude, it’s always a big mess,” said Evans in remarks to the rehearsal participants. “We’ve got to be ready to respond.”

FEMA Region II, which includes the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, faces some of the most unique natural challenges and susceptibilities. For one, the states and territories belonging to FEMA Region II, which also include New York and New Jersey, are separated by over 1600 miles. They also frequently find themselves in the path of destructive storm patterns, the release stated.

“A litany of disasters have impacted Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the last seven years,” said FEMA Region II Administrator David Warrington. “There has been damage to infrastructure and hardship for people.”

The Virgin Islands is the smallest National Guard unit out of all 54 states and territories, with only 800 Army and Air Guard personnel. They also lack organic aviation assets, complicating transportation and limiting supply access during disaster response, according to the release.

“The ROC drill is an opportunity to articulate our unique requirements,” said U.S. Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Kodjo Knox-Limbacker, the adjutant general of the Virgin Islands National Guard.

Knox-Limbacker cited the ROC drill as instrumental in the 2019 Hurricane Dorian response. Discussions from the drill, which occurred just three months earlier, allowed for a rapid and effective relief effort, the release stated.

“Because of the ROC drill, we knew who to call and who to talk to,” said Knox-Limbacker. “Our partners were aware of our gaps and ensured our needs were met. Our response to Hurricane Dorian went as rehearsed. Every year, that response becomes more refined.”

Since 2005, U.S. Army North, U.S. Northern Command’s Joint Force Land Component Command, has supported more than 40 tropical storms and hurricanes, including hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Dorian, the release stated.

For additional information, contact the U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) and JFLCC public affairs office at 210-247-8852 or usarmy.jbsa.arnorth.mbx.pao@army.mil; for imagery, visit https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/ARNORTH.

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