NPS Hurricane and Severe Weather Response

The National Park Service (NPS) manages a wide variety of areas across the United States and its territories, with many different types of physical environments and visitor experiences where varying levels of service are required to manage incidents and emergencies.

During severe weather such as hurricanes, the NPS strives to ensure the safety of its employees, visitors, and resources. When the NPS is engaged in an ongoing severe weather response effort, this page will provide timely updates about NPS response activities and links to specific information about parks that may be involved.

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Hurricane Nate

Hurricane Nate made landfall along the central U.S. Gulf coast on Saturday, October 7. As a tropical depression, Nate moved north across the southeast states and the southern Appalachians. For updates about parks in the path of the storm, see specific park websites and social media pages below for details.

For information about other parks in affected areas, use the Find A Park map to search by state.

saw crewmembers with chainsaws and heavy equipment amidst fallen trees and limbs
An NPS saw crew works to clear trees to reopen Cumberland Island National Seashore after Hurricane Irma

NPS photo

Hurricanes Irma and Maria

From September 6 through September 12, Hurricane Irma carved a path of destruction from the Caribbean, along the Florida peninsula, and into other areas of the southeastern United States, including coastal Georgia and South Carolina. A second powerful storm, Hurricane Maria, moved across the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on September 20, bringing catastrophic wind and rain to the Caribbean parks.

The NPS response for parks most significantly impacted by Irma and Maria in Florida and along the Atlantic coast was coordinated by National Park Service Incident Management Teams (IMTs), initially the Eastern IMT and then the Intermountain IMT. On October 10, the IMT in Florida completed its emergency response and returned recovery operations to the individual parks. A separate deployment of the Eastern IMT is based in San Juan, Puerto Rico to coordinate the ongoing response in the Caribbean parks.

An IMT’s work focuses on accounting for employees at impacted parks, organizing for the work ahead, and bringing in additional staff resources that will conduct damage assessments, coordinate debris removal, and provide access to park areas. The NPS is also coordinating closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the lead agency for the federal response to severe weather emergencies.

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    Hurricane Harvey

    In the early morning of August 26, Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast and for the next several days meandered over parts of southeast Texas and southern Louisiana, bringing torrential rain and causing catastrophic flooding.

    In response to the storm, the NPS provided assistance at a number of national park units in Texas and Louisiana and support for other Department of the Interior bureaus. Affected parks are open, but some sustained damage to trails and facilities. Check with the park before you go to get up-to-the minute details.

    The NPS has also supported a number of mission assignments with the Federal Emergency Management Agency supporting survivors in Texas. For the response to Harvey, the NPS sent rangers and other staff from more than 43 different locations to support search and rescue, public safety and security, and damage assessments there.

    Texas

    Louisiana

    Mississippi

    Other Federal Resources and Information

    • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Department of Homeland Security) (Español) is the lead agency for the federal response to severe weather emergencies.
    • For information about tropical weather that may be affecting a park near you, please visit the National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The NHC issues watches, warnings, forecasts, and analyses of tropical weather.
    • USA.gov provides links to the latest available information on relief and response, including storm preparedness, helping survivors, and other resources. (GobiernoUSA.gov también provee información del gobierno en español.)

    NPS Policy and Authorities

    NPS emergency response efforts are directed by NPS Management Policies, which state, “The saving of human life will take precedence over all other management actions as the National Park Service strives to protect human life and provide for injury-free visits” (Section 8.2.5.1, Visitor Safety and Emergency Response). The NPS ability to respond to incidents is essential to the safety of all who enter NPS areas and is implemented in this policy.

    The NPS also has authority to support emergency response outside of the parks. During times of emergency, the NPS may be asked to provide response to conduct search and rescue, firefighting, or public safety and security. The NPS can provide support for needs involving public works and engineering, public health and medical services, oil and hazardous spill response, and external affairs. In addition, the NPS is one of the support agencies to provide natural and cultural resources and historic preservation functions in the federal government under the National Response Framework.