FEMA update, including: What if Sandy disrupts the elections?

Washington — Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said Monday that Hurricane Sandy is speeding up, but on an expected track to make landfall later today.

He also said he’s asked FEMA’s general council to assess what FEMA could do if Sandy impacts the ability of storm-tossed states to hold general elections Nov. 6 because of damaged polling places or polling machines or other problems.

“It’s really too early to say … until we know what the impact is,” Fugate said.

He said the secretaries of state from the affected states would make all decisions about the elections.

In a press conference with Fugate Monday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center’s Rick Knabb said Sandy is still expected to come ashore between 6 and 7 Monday night, Tonight’s full moon is expected to aggravate the surge, Knabb said.

He said storm surges, from the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) Peninsula to the Long Island Sound could be 4 to 8 feet — and in some cases 11 feet — and won’t recede completely until Wednesday.

While Sandy is picking up speed as it heads inland, it will slow down on Tuesday, Knabb said.

“But it’s going to be a long-duration event,” he added.

Fugate said FEMA has pre-positioned 600,000 liters of water and 490,000 meals along the storm’s path, “and we’ve got more stuff coming in.”

Fugate also said that FEMA’s emergency fund contained $3.6 billion, enough for an initial response to the hurricane.

“We see no limiting factors for response activities,” he said.

FEMA was not as flush in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in 2011, when its disaster relief fund was down to about $270 million. That forced the agency to stop considering local projects.

President Obama has already approved requests for emergency aid from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, allowing FEMA, under law, to pay for 75 percent of debris removal and repairs to public roads and buildings.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had requested 100 percent reimbursement. Fugate said after the impact of Sandy is fully determined, he “would consider further assistance.”

That is likely to require a new appropriation from Congress, which is looking to shrink federal programs to avoid automatic, across-the-board cuts that would shrink FEMA’s budget by nearly $1 billion.

After the storm-hit areas are declared disaster areas, the federal government will provide housing assistance, low-interest loans and other help to the hurricane’s victims.