Federal government responds to snowstorms nationwide

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 1, 2011; 6:04 PM

The federal government deployed resources into at least 11 states Tuesday as winter weather bore down on a wide swath of the country.

Watches, warnings and advisories stretched Tuesday from New Mexico to New England, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency sent teams into Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island to assist with storm response efforts. The agency also sent water, meals, blankets, cots and generators to the states, FEMA said Tuesday.

Sending personnel and supplies into the field before a storm strikes is one of the major operational changes made by FEMA after its botched response to Hurricane Katrina. Such deployments are made without formal disaster requests by governors, but state officials must agree to allow federal personnel to join them at state emergency operation centers, the agency said.

President Obama received a telephone briefing from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate about federal coordination with state and local officials, the White House said.

With so much of the country snowed in, weather.gov, the government's main forecasting Web site, has slowed in recent days because of "unprecendented demand," a spokesman said Tuesday.

On an average day, the site receives about 70 million page views, but traffic this week has exceeded the 2 billion page views processed during storms that battered the northeast and mid-Atlantic last year, according to National Weather Service spokesman Curtis Carey.

"We're never satisfied when our services aren't 100 percent," he said. NWS employees in Silver Spring and Kansas City, Mo., began replacing equipment when they noticed site problems Sunday.

The weather service in recent weeks has also launched efforts to address chronic concerns with predicting the uncertainties of winter weather. The National Centers for Environmental Prediction is conducting experiments through February to determine whether there are new ways to predict snow amounts and other fast-changing uncertainties, the agency said.

Jason Samenow, editor of The Post's Capital Weather Gang blog, contributed to this report. Visit capitalweathergang.com for updated local forecasts.

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