It’s officially fall and many people are going pumpkin picking, heading out to apple orchards, and drinking pumpkin spice lattes.

But, did you know that the start of fall isn’t the end of hurricane season? It actually doesn’t end until after Thanksgiving.

In that vein, we’re quite busy around here because right now we’re keeping our eye on Hurricane Matthew in the Atlantic.

According to the National Hurricane Center’s office in Miami, Matthew is on a course heading straight for Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica and those areas are already seeing the impact.1,2 His track is projected to hit along the east coast of Florida and turn toward the Carolinas. Our friends over at the National Hurricane Center in Miami don’t know for sure just how much of an impact the storm will make3, but here at FEMA, we’re always planning for the worst-case scenario. (It’s just part of the job.)

After all, Matthew is no slouch of a storm. A few days back, he became the first Category 5 hurricane to form in the Atlantic basin since Hurricane Felix back in 2007—with winds measuring 157 miles per hour or above.4,5  (Those conditions were thankfully short-lived.)

We’d gone nearly a decade without a storm that intense—which, honestly, can make it all the more dangerous. Some people might have become complacent, thinking they might be “out of the woods” when it comes to these intense storms. While they might be rare (there have only been 33 of these extremely powerful storms since 19244), it’s important to know they are very possible—especially during the later months of hurricane season.

In the meantime, as Haiti and Jamaica are currently being faced with the storm, our colleagues over at the US Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance have been ramping up to make sure they’re ready if called on. Like us, they help out when there’s a request for assistance.

Contrary to what some might think, they’re actually the ones that take the lead when it comes to helping out after a disaster outside the United States. (A fun fact for you: Their scope of operations also includes humanitarian disasters—which is another way they differ from what we do here at FEMA.)6

To prep for Matthew, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has deployed two Disaster Assistance Response Teams to Haiti and Jamaica complete with technical experts.7 They’ve also prepositioned supplies in a warehouse just west of Miami stocked with things like blankets, hygiene kits, water jugs and plastic sheets (that can be used for temporary shelters). In some extreme cases, they’ve also sent things like water purification systems, chainsaws, and emergency vehicles to places affected by storms and other disasters.8 (This video from the US Southern Command provides a cool inside look at the warehouse and just some of the supplies they’ve got on hand.)

Like I said before, it’s hard to tell right now what the impacts might be based on the forecast models from the National Hurricane Center,1,2 but we might expect to see some coastal flooding and blustery conditions.

And for us right now, one of our regional Incident Management Assistance Teams has been deployed to North Carolina in anticipation of the storm, with another headed to Atlanta, Georgia. (These teams also work very similarly to the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance’s Disaster Assistance Response Teams that I mentioned earlier. They’ve got technical specialists and subject matter experts on them designated to help establish a response structure and help out if and when they’re needed.)

While we’re ramping up for any potential impacts of this storm along the East Coast, you should be too. Make sure you know your evacuation zone and route and you know, do the normal stuff like make sure you’ve got plenty of bottled water, canned and non-perishable goods, and double-A batteries on hand. More info for what to do in case of a hurricane or impending flooding conditions are available on our sister website, and in our App.



  1. The National Hurricane Center’s warnings and five-day forecast for Matthew’s storm center
  2. Tweet from the National Hurricane Center’s Atlantic Office
  3. Tweet from the National Hurricane Center’s Atlantic Office
  4. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Historical Hurricane Tracks archive
  5. Tweet from the National Hurricane Center’s Atlantic Office
  6. Fact Sheet about USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance
  7. USAID Press Release on Hurricane Matthew response (from October 2, 2016)
  8. Tweet from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance with video from the US Southern Command