Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Forgotten Ice Storm of 2009

While everyone argues about recoveries and bailouts there's a great human tragedy occurring in the nation's mid-section that is receiving neither on a national scale.

The impact of this year's great ice storm stretches far and wide, see here and here for maps of the impact zones in this region; but since it largely hit areas devoid of major population centers there is no attendant media circus.

Anecdotally speaking, I saw a convoy of utility trucks heading north through Memphis yesterday, a good sight. It doesn't take a government program. Refugees have come down here telling stories of no heat, limited food and gas. The pumps are powered by electricity.

Politically speaking there hasn't been much from the White House. It's hard to say whether spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked about it during the daily press briefings since unlike the Bush years they are not providing transcripts.(here). We haven't seen Geraldo crying on TV or black leaders criticizing the head of FEMA for inaction. But there have been some grumblings on a smaller scale:
In hard-hit Kentucky, local officials were growing angry with what they said was a lack of help from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In Grayson County, Ky., about 80 miles southwest of Louisville, Emergency Management director Randell Smith said road conditions are such that they have not been able to reach people in some areas. "We don't even know that they're alive."

Smith said FEMA has been a no-show so far. "I'm not saying we can't handle it; we'll handle it," Smith said. "But it would have made life a lot easier" if FEMA had reached the county sooner.
But there won't be a massive outcry--and there should not be. Disasters of this scope cannot be effectively handled by the Federal Government right off the bat. It will take days if not weeks to respond, which is why citizens need to be prepared to the greatest extent possible to survive a week or so on their own until help arrives. That includes local communities setting up shelters, which many have, and families and friends helping friends and strangers wherever possible.

MORE 1/31/09

Here's a roundup of others who've noticed Obama's curious lack of response. For a guy on top of things, he certainly seems to be taking the Bush approach on this one.

MORE 2/1/09

Paducah Kentucky is now under a curfew:
At 4 p.m. Friday, the city of Paducah declared an 11 p.m. curfew in the city during the course of the "weather-based civil emergency."

  • 1. A curfew is declared from 11:00 p.m. throughout the night and during the early morning hours when safe driving requires the use of vehicle headlights. Exempted from the curfew are emergency workers, medical staff, businesses providing or persons traveling for food or supplies, employees traveling to and from work, and individuals traveling to shelter.
  • 2. Alcohol sales will cease at 10:30 p.m.
  • 3. The Chief of Police is authorized to enforce the curfew.
  • 4. This declaration will remain in effect until rescinded.
  • 5. This declaration rescinds all previous declarations.
From the Evansville Courier-Press:
"It's like a war zone,"
From the Henderson, Kentucky "Gleaner":
The thaw out they were expecting isn’t happening,” he said.
The same thing happened to us here in Memphis after the 1994 ice storm. They predicted an immediate warmup into the 40s then 50s right afterward but with everything coated in an inch of ice it took all the sun's energy to melt it first and temperature barely cracked freezing. Things will get better today but certainly the Super Bowl will be the last thing on the minds of most who are struggling to tough things out at home with no power.

UPDATE 2/2/09

The death toll in Kentucky alone is up to 24 with over 50 from the entire storm. As to Obama, he still hasn't made much mention of the catastrophe but looking back, he did once mention the tornado in Greensberg, KS while on the campaign trail:
"In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died - an entire town destroyed," the Democratic presidential candidate said in a speech to 500 people packed into a sweltering Richmond art studio for a fundraiser.

Obama mentioned the disaster in Greensburg, Kan., in saying he had been told by the office of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius that the state's National Guard had been depleted by its commitment to the Iraq War.

"Turns out that the National Guard in Kansas only had 40 percent of its equipment and they are having to slow down the recovery process in Kansas," Obama said, his shirt sleeves rolled up and his head glistening with sweat.
Turns out he was off by about 9980 or so and was wrong about the KS Guard. But apparently there's no political upside in mentioning disasters anymore what with Iraq stabilizing and FEMA under his control.

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