TODAY   |  October 29, 2012

FEMA chief: Inland damage is a real concern

FEMA’s Craig Fugate Tells TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie that while they are keeping an eye on Sandy’s coastal impact, the organization is particularly concerned with what damage may occur inland, reminiscent of Hurricane Irene’s aftermath.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> craig fugate is the fema administrator. mr. fugate , good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> i'll start with the simple question. are you ready?

>> we've been getting red for the last couple of days. the biggest question with sandy is where and how much damage are we going to see?

>> you said when talking to your employees think big . what is your most pressing concern right now?

>> well, the most immediate thing is that people have evacuated or are evacuating from storm surge , but we're also looking at impacts well inland, and generally with hurricanes you tend to focus on the center. this has got a lot of impacts far away . i mean, i have not been around long enough to see a hurricane forecast with a snow advisory in it.

>> let's go back to evacuations for a minute. do you feel that people in fact are heeding the warnings and getting out of the danger areas?

>> well, i don't know specifically. i hope so, but i've seen the governors and the local officials have gotten out early. they have been doing a good job of messaging. it's really people need to act, and, again, they put up the information. they have given people direction. hopefully people have acted and have gone somewhere safe for the storm.

>> you mentioned the magnitude of this storm. can you give us a severance what's been mobilized to deal with some of the impact?

>> well, we've got teams basically all the way from down in north carolina where it was earlier impacted in the outer banks and all the way to maine. we have teams in states as far inland as west virginia . we've been moving generators and basic supplies that we would need after the storm, so it's a large response area, but we also have a lot of good teams with the states and their folks working together getting ready.

>> power outages are expected to be one of the big impacts of this storm. is there any way to prevent a power outage , to kind of ward it off, or do you just have to be prepared to deal with the aftermath?

>> you need to be prepared. again, we're not expecting the winds themselves inland to be that, you know, damaging, the homes and structures, but we do think trees are going to get impacted. limbs coming down will probably be the biggest problem knocking down the power grid .

>> you told your staff on sunday to prepare for what the ifs, to not be complacent. what are the scenarios you're most worried about at this point?

>> well, it's kind of going to be as the storm comes ashore. first will be the coastal impacts and then the wind nothinging out power, and then heavy rain, where we may get flash flooding , but in some cases we may not have river flooding for several days so i don't want people to think it's not that bad when it comes ashore. if you remember with hurricane irene , some of the worst impacts were well inland, like in the state of vermont

>> i know it's hard to ask at this point, but do you have any estimate of how much damage from a monetary standpoint this might cause? i mean, are we talking billions?

>> too early to say, and, again, our forecast is on life safety. we're prepared to support recovery. we can get the dollar figures after the storm, but we want people to be safe, so we're talking about dollar figures, not loss of life.

>> fema administrator craig fugate , a busy morning for you. thanks for being with us.