FEMA Chief Says Hurricane Florence Will Be 'Devastating' to East Coast

The chief administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) appeared on CBS This Morning on Tuesday, warning that Hurricane Florence will be "devastating."

Brock Long, appointed by President Donald Trump last April, appeared on the program shortly after evacuations were ordered in the south east. He spoke with CBS' Norah O'Donnell and Gayle King about the impending disaster and the federal government's plans to handle it. Long did not mince words with the reporters, apparently hoping to convey the gravity of the situation.

"It's not a question of 'if' Florence is going to impact the Carolinas and Virginia," he said. "It's going to, and it's going to be a devastating storm. I'm a North Carolina native, I grew up in Newton, North Carolina. In 1989 Hurricane Hugo -- the last category 4 hurricane storm in the Carolinas came right over my house. We were out of power for ten days. I was out of school, if I remember, for two weeks, and this storm is setting up very similar to that one."

According to Long, the main concern at this point is urging residents to obey the evacuation order. As O'Donnell pointed out, only about 50 percent of people typically follow mandatory evacuation orders, but in this case it could mean the difference between life and death.

"We're really hoping that people will heed the governors' warnings in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia today, and make sure you're taking the proper precautions to get out of storm surge areas and into facilities that can withstand the winds."

Long echoed the concerns of the National Hurricane Center and other experts, who warn that freshwater flooding will be a huge concern after Florence drops an estimated 30 inches of water in the areas. After a particularly rainy summer, and the remnants of other storms passing through, parts of North Carolina and Virginia are already saturated, making it extremely likely that the rivers will run over and cause long-term flooding.

In addition, the hurricane's direct path suggests that it will linger for quite a while after making landfall, rather than bouncing away as many hurricanes do. Long described the storm as a "marathon event."

The administrator finished his warnings with an apt metaphor, describing the emergency response to hurricanes of this magnitude as a chair with four legs.

"It takes more than FEMA to appropriately respond and recover," he admitted. "Emergency management is like a chair with four legs: it takes the federal government -- that's one leg, it takes the state and local government[s], that's another leg, it takes the private sector and non-government organizations, that's the third leg, and then it takes you the citizen as the fourth leg. When all four of those legs go into a response and recovery, the chair is stable."