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FEMA administrator says to expect deadly storms to be the ‘new normal’ as the impact of climate change becomes ‘the crisis of our generation’

December 12, 2021

FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell told CNN that severe storms are now the “new normal” due to climate change.

Her remarks follow deadly storms that ravaged much of the Midwest and parts of the South on Friday, with at least 80 presumed dead in Kentucky.”The effects we are seeing of climate change are the crisis of our generation,” Criswell said.

After deadly storms tore through the Midwest and parts of the South this weekend, culminating a year filled with devastating and historic natural disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said to expect this to be the new status quo.

According to Deanne Criswell, the FEMA administrator, the agency has seen a rise in intense storms and severe weather patterns that it anticipates to continue as a result of climate change. Speaking on morning news shows on Sunday, Criswell shared the agency’s plans to prepare for increasing rates of deadly storms as the country faces the “crisis of our generation.”

“This is going to be our new normal,” Criswell said on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper. “The effects we are seeing of climate change are the crisis of our generation. We’re taking a lot of efforts at FEMA to work with communities to help reduce the impacts that we’re seeing from these severe weather events and help to develop systemwide projects that can help protect communities.”

Criswell’s remarks come after severe storms and tornadoes ripped through six states, killing an estimated 80 people in Kentucky in what the state’s governor, Andy Beshear, said on Saturday “is likely to be the most severe tornado outbreak in our state’s history.”

They also follow a year marked by historic storms that caused unprecedented damage across the country, including winter storms that left large swaths of Texas without power and killed an estimated 210 people, rampant forest fires on the West Coast that have produced harmful smoke traveling thousands of miles across the nation, and severe hurricanes that ravaged much of the East Coast this spring.

Speaking on This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Criswell said while FEMA is dedicated to improving disaster response and helping communities impacted by disasters, “there is a lot that we need to do as a nation.”

“There’s going to be a lot to learn from this event and the events that we saw through the summer,” she told Stephanopoulos. “We’re seeing more intense storms, severe weather, whether it’s hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires. And one of the focuses my agency is going to have is, how can we start to reduce the impacts of these events as they continue to grow?”

Looking ahead, Criswell told Stephanopoulos that FEMA is focusing on how to help communities become “more resilient” as they face powerful storms in the future.

“We’re having a concerted effort going forward in how we can help communities understand what their unique risks are, the type of mitigation projects that are out there that can help protect them community-wide instead of incremental projects,” she said.

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