Severe Weather Blog

Obama signs Florida emergency declaration to deal with Hurricane Matthew

U.S. President Barack Obama listens as he receives a briefing on the upcoming hurricane season at the Federal Emergency Management Association headquarters in Washington on Wednesday.
U.S. President Barack Obama listens as he receives a briefing on the upcoming hurricane season at the Federal Emergency Management Association headquarters in Washington on Wednesday. Bloomberg

President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for Florida on Thursday afternoon, anticipating extensive damage from the approaching Hurricane Matthew.

Gov. Rick Scott requested the federal designation Wednesday. He and Obama spoke by phone early Thursday afternoon, according to Scott’s office, and the White House announced the emergency declaration shortly after.

Federal agencies will now be authorized to coordinate disaster relief efforts and use federal aid to assist state and local governments in dealing with the storm. The emergency designation applies to 28 counties along Florida’s coast, from Monroe in the Florida Keys to Nassau on the Georgia border.

Scott had criticized Obama for not signing an emergency declaration as quickly as the governor would have liked after Hurricane Hermine hit Florida last month. The president eventually approved the designation for six counties.

Following his Hurricane Matthew request Wednesday evening, Scott sent a stern message during a press briefing early Thursday that he wanted Obama to act swiftly.

“I hope the president does it this morning before the storm begins,” Scott said, reiterating it a second time for emphasis.

A few hours later, Scott and Obama spoke for a few minutes just after 12:30 p.m., Scott’s spokeswoman, Jackie Schutz, said.

According to Schutz, Obama said on the call that it was “unclear” if Scott’s request would be granted right away, but then the approved declaration came in shortly afterward, she said.

In addition to the declaration request, Scott has now also asked the Obama administration for more generators and pumps to pre-position in northeast Florida, where forecast models show more intense rainfall than previously predicted, Schutz said.

Miguel Ascarrunz, Broward County’s director of emergency management, welcomed Obama’s declaration Thursday, ahead of Matthew’s landfall.

“This is an excellent step in terms of getting us those federal resources quicker,” Ascarrunz said.

Patricia Mazzei: 305-376-3350, @PatriciaMazzei

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