St. Thomas — Two Ukrainian cargo planes charterned by FEMA landed in Guam earlier this week to bring disaster supplies. The crafts that rarely take flight, brought supplies for Guamanians — who are U.S. citizens — right before a powerful typhoon made landfall this week.
The arrival of the world’s largest plane — the Antonov An-225 Mriya — is a defining moment for the United States. Weather patterns in 2017 and 2018 continue to contradict the Trump administration’s stance on climate change; forcing FEMA to ramp up its efforts in the Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific.
Weighing in at over a million-pounds, the Antonov An-225 Mriya is powered by six powerful engines. The significance of the flight shows a major shift in FEMA’s responsiveness before storms in the tropics. With hurricane Florence — now larger than the state of Florida — barreling towards the east coast, the agency is taking precautions to avoid missteps from 2017.
A string of reports showed that FEMA was understaffed and severely underfunded at the start of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. Governor Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres of the Northern Mariana Islands has made a request to the US President, Donald Trump to declare a state of emergency in the Commonwealth now that Typhoon Mangkhut has passed through the islands.
Reports from Kuam News confirm that the agency was replenishing its warehouses in the region before the storm made landfall.
Typhoon Mangkhut brought heavy winds and rain as it churned through the Pacific. According to the news outlet, hundreds of officials have arrived over the weekend in anticipation of Typhoon Mangkhut’s hit.
Included was: 90,000 liters of water and 140,000 shelf stable meals.
According to the Saipan Tribune, Mangkhut dumped eight to 10 inches of rain on the small islands, brushing the southern shores of Rota Island as a category 2 storm. Mangkut is now equal to a category 4 hurricane.
After slamming Guam, experts upgraded Mangkhut to super typhoon status as it gained strength and speed. Most of the Caribbean archipelago is bracing for the effects of tropical storm Isaac later this week.
Guam was also hit by a major typhoon in 2017. Last year, three U.S. territories were severely impacted by tropical cyclones and two states were struck by powerful tropical cyclones.
Many critics cast blame on FEMA for its lack of preparedness. The agency notes that the U.S. experienced, “unprecedented disasters that affected more than 25 million Americans (almost 8 percent of the U.S. population).” Disaster funds supported four powerful tropical cyclones striking U.S. Coasts and historic wildfires in California.
The U.S Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida each took blows from hurricanes Irma and Maria. Both Caribbean territories were impacted by category 5 storms, with the Virgin Islands taking simultaneous hits. Both territories lost nearly all of their critical infrastructure including roads, power lines and cell cites.
The New York Times’ publication of a damning op-ed, written by a senior staffer of the Trump administration underscores just how ineffective the White House has been at responding to external crises. Last year, FEMA supported 59 major disaster declarations in the United States and dishing out over $7 billion in disaster aid.
Featured image by Alpha Coders.
Editor’s Notes: Mainstream news outlets have not covered this topic in full detail, underscoring issues U.S. territories face with news coverage, especially surrounding tropical cyclones and issues like voting rights.