WASHINGTON -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it is ready to assist Alabama residents recovering from devastating tornadoes, even though the agency's administrator resigned less than a month ago.
A cluster of tornadoes ripped through the Southeast Sunday. The most vicious storms upturned Lee County in Alabama with 170 mph winds, leaving a trail of destruction nearly a mile wide. Twenty-three people died.
"I have not seen this level of destruction ever in Lee County, and that covers a span back, I know, for about 50 years," Sheriff Jay Jones told NPR.
Just three weeks ago FEMA Administrator Brock Long resigned from his post at the agency. Peter Gaynor, was named to serve as acting administrator upon Long's departure.
Long faced scrutiny for using taxpayer resources for commutes from Washington, D.C., to his home in North Carolina and anger for the agency's flat-footed response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Long deflected culpability for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico after Maria in a television interview last year, saying that "the numbers are all over the place."
Asked how FEMA would respond to the aftermath of this week's tornadoes adequately, so soon after the departure of its chief, a spokesman replied that it is "in close coordination with state emergency management officials in Alabama and we stand ready to assist as needed and requested."
"We have deployed a FEMA liaison and an Incident Management Assistance Team to the Alabama Emergency Operations Center as the state continues to gather information and assess the impacts from the recent tornadoes," the spokesman continued.
The spokesman also pointed to a statement made by Long following his resignation in which he expressed confidence in acting administrator Gaynor.
When the tornadoes hit, lawmakers had already been discussing a disaster relief package for past emergencies, including in some of the same parts to the country.