FEMA associate director Jeffrey Byard isn’t mincing words.
His tough talk ahead of Hurricane Florence’s multi-state assault is part of a strategy to get as many people as possible in the storm’s path to move to higher ground.
When Florence was downgraded from a Category-3 storm to a Category-2 on Thursday, Byard offered up some options to people still on the fence.
Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?
"Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?"
His colorful quotes and blunt warnings are crafted to be as piercing as possible so residents at risk will get out of dodge.
“We call them disasters because they break things.” Byard said. “The infrastructure is going to break.”
The National Weather Center has described Florence as “the storm of a lifetime” and a “major flooding event.”
Florence is already spreading rain and wind into the Carolinas with landfall likely coming sometime overnight or on Friday. The devastation could linger into next week, producing catastrophic flooding, life-threatening storm surge and ferocious winds.
On Wednesday, Byard, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1990-1994, warned that Florence wasn’t going to be a “glancing blow.”
This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast
“Today is the day,” he said about evacuating. “This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.”
The Alabama native also predicted the storm would cause “massive damage to our country.”
“Take action now!” he said. “This is not a storm that we’ll be able to recover from in days.”
Byard was sworn in as the Associate Administrator for the Office of Response and Recovery (ORR) at FEMA right at the high of the agency's response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma last year. Before that, he served with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) in a variety of roles.
During his time at the AEMA, he helped coordinate the state's first large-scale evacuation during Hurricane Gustav as well as recovery operations for the Deep Water Horizon Spill, and the 2011 Super Outbreak.
His tough language may be partly a cue from his boss Brock Long, who knows first-hand what it’s like to be in a hurricane.
“Hurricane Hugo… came right over my house,” he told CBS News.
“We were out of power for 10 days. I was out of school I remember for two weeks. This storm is setting up to be very similar to that one.”