R.I. Staging Massive Hurricane Response to Fake Hurricane Yvette

May 1, 2007

Rhode Island is prepping for the worst hurricane to ever crash into New England — on paper at least.

About 250 federal emergency management officials plan to stage a response to the fictional “Hurricane Yvette” from a “storm center” at the Cranston Street Armory in Providence. A response team will gather only knowing that the Category-3 hurricane has ravaged Long Island and is gaining steam as it heads toward Narragansett Bay.

The storm will burst dams, flood streets and whittle away the coastline. Officials will be charged with preparing the evacuation of 130,000 Rhode Islanders. The hope is that the federal government team will score well during the drill, improving upon the botched response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The drill is one of several major emergency-preparedness exercises taking place across the nation over the next three weeks. The U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security will oversee the exercise.

The federal agencies will focus on whether communication systems with state and local authorities are more compatible today than they were in chaos following Katrina.

“This is an extremely valuable drill,” Robert J. Warren, executive director of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, told The Providence Journal. “It’s going to test the guidelines they put in place after Katrina. I think it’s valuable for the state to go to this level, the national level.”

State officials will also stage exercises with the federal team and hospitals across the region will be open for the mock emergencies, said Gov. Donald Carcieri.

“We have worked hard over the last two years to increase our planning and preparedness capabilities for a hurricane,” Carcieri said.

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