The National Park Service manages a wide variety of areas across the United States and its territories, with many different types of physical environments and visitor experiences where varying levels of service are required to manage incidents and emergencies.
During severe weather such as hurricanes, the NPS strives to ensure the safety and protection of its visitors, employees, and resources. When the NPS is responding to an ongoing severe weather event, this page will provide timely updates about NPS response activities and links to specific information about parks that may be involved.
The immediate NPS response for parks significantly impacted by severe weather and other natural disasters is often coordinated by NPS incident management teams (IMTs) from across the country. An IMT’s work focuses on accounting for and assisting employees at impacted parks, organizing for the recovery work ahead, and bringing in additional staff resources to conduct damage assessments, coordinate debris removal, and provide access to park areas. The NPS also coordinates closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the lead agency for the federal response to severe weather emergencies.
As the NPS responds to severe weather events, employees will remain vigilant and adhere to recommendations and guidelines to reduce the spread of highly infectious diseases. All responders should follow the recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stay healthy and reduce the spread of illness. The CDC has developed specific guidance for hurricanes and COVID-19. Depending on the response requirements, incident management teams will adapt guidance addressing issues faced by wildland firefighters for use in responding to severe weather incidents. As needed, the NPS Office of Public Health and Office of Risk Management will provide guidance, information, and support to help mitigate risk of disease transmission.
Check the list of park alerts for additional information about park closures and warnings. You can also read more about 2019, 2018, and 2017 storms that affected national parks.
Tropical Storm Eta
Tropical Storm Eta brought tropical storm conditions to portions of Florida and the southeast US, including heavy rainfall and flooding. National parks in the area implemented their severe weather plans and closed park areas and/or facilities in preparation for the storm and reopened as it was safe to do so.
Park News Releases for Tropical Storm Eta
Zeta made landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi as a strong hurricane on October 28 delivering high winds and heavy rains across the southeastern states. National parks in the path of the storm made preparations for possible impacts. Some closed park areas in advance of the storm and parks that are closed due to COVID-19 also implemented severe weather preparation plans to protect park resources.
Zeta caused numerous power outages, tree fall, and other damage. As it was safe to do so, impacted parks began assessing damage, clearing debris, and making any needed repairs. Parks with closures due to Hurricane Zeta include Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi and Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Louisiana. Check park websites for additional details.
Park News Releases for Hurricane Zeta
Hurricane Delta made landfall along the Louisiana Gulf Coast late on Friday, October 9, before moving into the lower Mississippi and Tennessee river valleys bringing heavy rainfall across the southeast from Louisiana and Arkansas to the Atlantic coast. National parks in central Louisiana and southern Mississippi ensured the safety of employees and implemented their severe weather plans. Impacted parks had minimal damage from the storm but had some closures as they completed any needed clean-up and repairs. Check park websites for additional details.
Park News Releases for Hurricane Delta
Hurricane Sally made landfall along the northern Gulf Coast on September 16 delivering significant rainfall, flooding, and strong winds. Parks in the area activated their severe weather plans and prepared for possible impacts. While some parks in the path of the storm were already closed or had reduced operations due to COVID-19, they continued to implement their severe weather plans to protect employees, visitors, and park resources.
At Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi and Florida, some park areas remain closed as staff continue to address recovery needs. An NPS incident management team was deployed to support the park's recovery.
Park News Releases for Hurricane Sally
Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Marco
Laura made landfall over southwestern Louisiana early on August 27 as a Category 4 hurricane delivering storm surge, flash flooding, and hurricane-force winds to western Louisiana and eastern Texas. Laura was downgraded to a tropical storm later in the day as it moved north into Arkansas bringing rain and strong winds.
National parks in the path of Laura implemented storm plans and closed park areas. While some parks in the path were already closed or had reduced operations due to COVID-19, they continued to implement their severe weather plans to protect employees and park resources. Parks impacted by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Laura assessed damage as it has been safe to do so. Some parks have reopened areas that were closed for the storms. Check park websites for additional details.
Several days earlier, the same coastal areas impacted by Hurricane Laura had heavy rains from Tropical Storm Marco. In addition, before crossing the Gulf of Mexico, Laura brought moderate winds and rain to the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. National parks in the Caribbean received little to no damage and have reopened areas that had been closed for the storm.
Park News Releases for Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Marco
Isaias moved along the eastern coast of the US from July 30 through August 4, when it moved into Canada as a post-tropical storm.
Some national parks in impacted areas were already closed or had reduced operations due to COVID-19. Others closed park areas for the storm and have reopened as conditions allow. Check park websites for further details.
Park News Releases for Hurricane Isaias
Hurricane Hanna made landfall along the south Texas Gulf Coast on July 25. Padre Island National Seashore, which already had some locally mandated COVID-related beach closures in place, has reopened areas that had been closed after the storm.
Tropical Storm Cristobal
On June 8, Cristobal moved inland from the Gulf of Mexico across southeastern Louisiana bringing tropical storm force winds, storm surge, and flooding along the central Gulf Coast. Parks in the storm’s path implemented severe weather plans. Several parks, including Gulf Islands National Seashore, closed park areas in preparation and response to the storm and some were already closed or had reduced operations due to COVID-19. Check park websites for further details.
Other Federal Resources and Information from FEMA and the CDC
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Department of Homeland Security) (Español) is the lead agency for the federal response to severe weather emergencies.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about natural disasters, severe weather, and COVID-19 including guidelines for preparing for hurricanes.
- USA.gov provides links to the latest available information on relief and response, including storm preparedness, helping survivors, and other resources. (GobiernoUSA.gov también provee información del gobierno en español.)
- For information about tropical weather that may be affecting a park near you, please visit the National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The NHC issues watches, warnings, forecasts, and analyses of tropical weather.
NPS Policy and Authorities
NPS emergency response efforts are directed by NPS Management Policies, which state, “The saving of human life will take precedence over all other management actions as the National Park Service strives to protect human life and provide for injury-free visits” (Section 220.127.116.11, Visitor Safety and Emergency Response). The NPS ability to respond to incidents is essential to the safety of all who enter NPS areas and is implemented in this policy.
The NPS also has authority to support emergency response outside of the parks. During times of emergency, the NPS may be asked to provide response to conduct search and rescue, firefighting, or public safety and security. The NPS can provide support for needs involving public works and engineering, public health and medical services, oil and hazardous spill response, and external affairs. In addition, the NPS is one of the support agencies to provide natural and cultural resources and historic preservation functions in the federal government under the National Response Framework.
Last updated: November 16, 2020