Homeland Security chief slams critics of hurricane Irene preparations (VIDEO)

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano praised New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Tuesday for the city’s effective response to hurricane Irene.

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 30.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that those who criticize preparations for hurricane Irene for being excessive are engaging in “what I like to call the blinding clarity of hindsight.”

At a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters Tuesday, Secretary Napolitano was asked about grumbling over storm preparations in New York City where Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the city subway system shut down and low-lying areas evacuated. In the end, the city was spared from large scale flooding as a result of the storm.

“I think New York City did a great job – making those evacuation decisions, clearing the roads for responders, being very careful and knowledgeable about what kind of time it takes to safely evacuate, say a nursing home ... I would grade New York City very highly on this storm," Napolitano said.

Mayor Bloomberg was quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying on Sunday, "We made exactly the right call” regarding the unprecedented evacuation of more than 350,000 people.

Napolitano came to the breakfast dressed in a blue Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shirt and was headed later in the day to inspect storm damage in North Carolina and Virginia. FEMA is one of the 22 separate agencies that were folded into the Homeland Security Department in 2003 as a response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The nation’s successful response to hurricane Irene was due in part to the resources DHS has put in place since 9/11, Napolitano said. The response “reflected a lot of training, preparation, exercises, equipment, provisions, all of which by the way came in part out of 9/11 and the creation of the department and through the department the ability to get resources out to the local level,” she said.

Many areas of the east coast are still dealing with the after effects of the storm with flooding being reported in Vermont and New York. Widespread power outages continued with more than 2.5 million people from North Carolina to Maine still without electricity.

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