In a marked contrast to the delay after hurricane Katrina, Fugate urged President Obama to declare Alabama a federal disaster area even before the harshest damage reports were in.
With at least 305 tornadoes reported in six states for the two-day period, it is the largest tornado outbreak in US history.
“If you can’t tell me it’s not bad, I’m going to assume it’s bad ... and go,” Fugate told The Associated Press, as he toured the area by air on May 1.
Appearing with Gov. Robert Bentley (R) of Ala-bama the day after the storms, Fugate reiterated that FEMA was taking a support role, then gave the governor the floor.
“It’s not FEMA’s role to step in midstream and take over, but to allow folks to do all they can and to let them know that there’s help if they need it,” says Edwin Bailey, who worked with Fugate in Achuala, Fla., as emergency responders. “Craig gets that.”
After hurricane Katrina, President Bush’s “heckuva job, Brownie,” to then-administrator Michael Brown, a lawyer and political appointee, came to symbolize the chasm between federal leadership and the situation on the ground. Mr. Brown resigned shortly thereafter.