Hurricane Irma: Recovery groups brace for back-to-back major storms

Hurricane Irma may hit less than two weeks after Hurricane Harvey.

September 05, 2017, 12:07 PM

— -- Large portions of Houston and other parts of Texas remain underwater from the last deadly hurricane to hit the U.S., but federal agencies and national recovery groups are already bracing for a potentially stronger storm.

Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 storm when it made landfall in Texas early on Aug. 25. Hurricane Irma is registering as a "potentially catastrophic Category 5" storm that will approach Puerto Rico as early as Thursday and likely affect Florida in the following days, according to the National Hurricane Center.

While recovery agencies are working hard to redirect their resources, Irma is not predicted to strike the same areas as Harvey. Irma is expected to hit the eastern Caribbean and then head up the East Coast rather into the Gulf of Mexico and toward Harvey-affected parts of Louisiana and Texas.

But that wasn't the case when two hurricanes — Katrina and Rita — hit the Louisiana area in 2005. Those two storms came just over three weeks apart, and while they did not follow the exact same path, parts of the Louisiana coastline were affected by both.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross have been heavily involved in the response to Hurricane Harvey, and both have reported that they are prepared for Irma as well.

William Booher, FEMA's director of public affairs, said Monday that the agency "is actively preparing for Irma while the coordinated response and recovery efforts with our state and local partners in Texas and Louisiana continues."

FEMA staffers have been deployed to emergency operation centers in St. Thomas and St. Croix, workers from FEMA's Caribbean area division are in Puerto Rico, and a regional management team has been deployed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, he said in a statement.

More than 600,000 liters of water and 290,000 meals are on hand in San Juan, and more than 115,000 liters of water and 210,000 meals are on hand in the U.S. Virgin Islands, he said.

Red Cross spokeswoman Donna Morrissey told ABC News on Monday that it is preparing for Irma to make landfall on the mainland U.S.

"We have begun prestaging workers in Florida because of Irma," she said.

Morrissey said that because the Red Cross directs most donations to a general disaster relief fund, the organization utilizes those funds for multiple calamities. For example, some of the money that people donated to the Red Cross in response to Hurricane Harvey is being used for recovery from that storm, and some will be used for future disasters like Irma.

As for the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, business continues as usual.

Having successive storms "does not change what the National Hurricane Center is doing, regardless of if there is one storm [or more than one]," said Dennis Feltgen, a communications officer and meteorologist for the NHC in Miami.

He noted that in addition to Hurricane Irma, the center's scientists are tracking Jose, a tropical storm forming over the Atlantic that could become a Category 2 hurricane, according to the NHC.

"We do what we do to the best of our ability to fulfill our mission to protect life and property," Feltgen added.

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