The National Park Service 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 and protection of its visitors, employees, and resources. When the NPS is responding to an ongoing severe weather event, this page will provide timely updates about NPS response activities and links to specific information about parks that may be involved.
The immediate NPS response for parks significantly impacted by severe weather and other natural disasters is often coordinated by an NPS incident management team (IMT). An IMT’s work focuses on accounting for and assisting employees at impacted parks, organizing for the recovery work ahead, and bringing in additional staff resources to conduct damage assessments, coordinate debris removal, and provide access to park areas. The NPS also coordinates closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the lead agency for the federal response to severe weather emergencies.
Nicole moved inland over Florida and the southeast US on Thursday, November 10, first as a hurricane and then a tropical storm. National parks impacted by Nicole assessed damage and reopened as conditions allowed. Canaveral National Seashore and Fort Matanzas National Monument sustained damage causing several longer-term storm-related closures. Check park websites for details.
As Hurricane Ian moved across the Florida peninsula in late September and impacted areas in the South Atlantic states, national parks in the storm’s path implemented their severe weather plans to protect visitors, staff, and park resources. Storm impacts included downed trees and branches, power outages, and some structural damage. The NPS Eastern Incident Management Team deployed to support park recovery needs and parks have reopened as conditions allow. Check the news releases below as well as park websites and social media for current information.
On September 17 and 18, Hurricane Fiona moved over the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. In response, US national parks in the Caribbean implemented their severe weather plans to protect visitors, staff, and park resources. San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico and parks in the US Virgin Islands have reopened.
Flooding at Yellowstone National Park
In June, Yellowstone National Park experienced historic and catastrophic flooding. The park is providing ongoing updates on NPS.gov and in its social media on Facebook and Twitter.
As the NPS responds to severe weather events, employees remain vigilant and adhere to recommendations and guidelines to reduce the spread of highly infectious diseases. All responders follow recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stay healthy and reduce the spread of illness. The CDC has developed specific guidance for hurricanes and COVID-19. Depending on the response requirements, incident management teams will adapt guidance addressing issues faced by wildland firefighters for use in responding to severe weather incidents. As needed, the NPS Office of Public Health and Office of Risk Management will provide guidance, information, and support to help mitigate risk of disease transmission.
Other Federal Resources and Information from FEMA and the CDC
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Department of Homeland Security) (Español) is the lead agency for the federal response to severe weather emergencies.
- 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.)
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about natural disasters, severe weather, and COVID-19 including guidelines for preparing for hurricanes.
- 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.
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 22.214.171.124, 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.
Last updated: November 18, 2022