President Obama: Hurricane Irene Likely 'Historic,' Federal Government Prepared

Lessons from Katrina evident in Obama Administration storm preparations.

ByABC News
August 26, 2011, 11:02 AM

Aug. 26, 2011— -- President Obama today painted a grim picture of the menace posed by Hurricane Irene, warning Americans to "take this storm seriously" as he offered reassurances that his administration has.

"I cannot stress this highly enough: If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, take precautions now," Obama said in an address from Martha's Vineyard.

"The federal government has spent the better part of last week working … to see to it that we're prepared," he added. "All indications point to this being a historic hurricane."

His message and the ongoing mobilization of his administration underscore the lingering lessons from Hurricane Katrina, and an awareness of the impact the monster 2005 storm had on the presidency of George W. Bush.

The Obama administration has pre-deployed federal disaster response teams up and down the East Coast, personally reached out to dozens of state and local leaders, preemptively declared an emergency in North Carolina -- and launched a public relations blitz to let Americans know.

"The federal government is leaning forward, ahead of the storm," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters in Washington, D.C., this morning. "The president has directed us to ensure that all needed resources are available and that we should coordinate closely with our local partners."

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The news conference followed a slew of press releases detailing the administration's efforts, which included calls from Napolitano to seven governors and five mayors, and the early dispatching of FEMA national assistance teams to states in the storm's path.

"You're seeing FEMA ringing their early alarm bells louder and sooner than they did during Katrina," said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, author of "The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast."

"FEMA is painting a worst-case portrait. They're leaving nothing to chance," Brinkley said. "And that's a lesson learned during Katrina."