At the National Tropical Weather Conference in South Padre Island, Texas yesterday, Craig Fugate was awarded with the 2019 Robert and Joanne Simpson Award. The award is presented to individuals who have been “outstanding in actively working to further the science of tropical meteorology.”
W. Craig Fugate is best known for serving as President Barack Obama’s FEMA Administrator from May 2009 to January 2017. Previously, he served as Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s Emergency Management Director from 2001-2009. Fugate led FEMA through multiple record-breaking disaster years and oversaw the Federal Government’s response to major events such as the Joplin and Moore Tornadoes, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Matthew, and the 2016 Louisiana flooding. Fugate set a clear and compelling vision, mission, and priorities for FEMA and relentlessly drove the Agency to achieve better outcomes for survivors. FEMA’s effectiveness in dealing with more than 500 Presidentially-declared major disasters and emergencies under
Fugate’s leadership restored the faith of the American people in the Federal Government’s ability to respond to disasters. Prior to his tenure at FEMA, Fugate was widely praised for his management, under Governor Jeb Bush, of the devastating effects of the 2004 and 2005 Florida hurricane seasons which included storms Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Dennis, Katrina, and Wilma.
After concerns about FEMA’s performance with Hurricane Katrina, Fugate and his leadership was able to restore confidence in the government entity. Under Fugate’s leadership, FEMA fostered a balanced, community-oriented approach to emergency management that builds sustainable and resilient communities before and after disaster strikes. FEMA invested more than $7 billion in hazard mitigation assistance during Fugate’s tenure even as the agency took steps to require disaster grantees to rebuild to hazard-resistant codes and standards in FEMA-funded post-disaster grant projects. During Fugate’s tenure, rates of adoption for disaster resilient building codes nationwide increased from 40% in 2009 to 63% in 2016. Fugate also provided Federal Government-wide leadership on reducing disaster risk through efforts to develop for President Obama’s approval executive orders that reduce the Nation’s flood, earthquake, and wildfire risk through managed Federal investment in hazard-prone areas.
The award is named in honor of Robert and Joanne Simpson, famous meteorologists who were dedicated to tropical weather. Robert Homer Simpson was the first director of the National Hurricane Research Project (NHRP) from 1955–1959 and the Director of the National Hurricane Center from 1967–1974.) He is perhaps most famous for the hurricane scale that carries his name and the scale’s co-developer, Herbert Saffir: the Saffir-Simpson Scale. His wife Joanne Simpson had an equally impressive career; as the first woman in the United States to receive a Ph.D. in meteorology,she taught and researched meteorology at numerous universities as well as the federal government. Joanne Simpson contributed to many areas of the atmospheric sciences, particularly in the field of tropical meteorology. She has researched hot towers, hurricanes, the trade winds, air-sea interactions, and helped develop the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) which is used to analyze precipitation from these potent storms.