Blizzards & Hurricanes

I know I’m not the only Rhode Islander who sat in a traffic jam on Thursday wondering what on earth would happen in a real disaster. If a few inches of snow shut everything down what will happen when the next hurricane hits our coast? Was the Governor was more focused on politics than public safety? He left town without bothering to tell Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts he was in Iraq, and he took all the keys with him. It reminds me of the shabby treatment Gov. Kathleen Blanco suffered when she was falsely accused of not declaring a state of emergency prior to Hurricane Katrina. News outlets, including the Providence Journal editorial page (Questions after Katrina 9/8/05 p.B4) repeated that slander and few bothered to print a retraction.

We began to see some of these attacks over the weekend. Sunday’s Washington Post cited an anonymous Bush administration official who explained that one reason that the federal government didn’t intervene more quickly in Louisiana was because Kathleen Blanco, the state’s Democratic governor, failed to declare a state of emergency there, a necessary step for federal help to flow. An article in Newsweek repeats the same claim.

But there’s a problem with the White House’s excuse: It’s patently false. As Josh Marshall points out, Blanco declared a state of emergency on Aug. 26 — a day before Bush declared a federal emergency in Louisiana.

Reading the Journal’s M.Charles Bakst I got a feeling of deja vu.

Roberts groused that Carcieri administration officials rebuffed her offers of assistance and her advice that the state Emergency Operations Center be activated.

She said, “This is New England. We have snow. I understand we can’t control nature. The timing of the storm was difficult. But we should be able to respond to a situation like this more effectively.�

You perhaps thought Carcieri’s Iraq/Kuwait trip made Roberts acting governor. But a 1992 constitutional amendment deleted wording that put the lieutenant governor in charge whenever the number one was out of state. Indeed, Roberts said she hadn’t known Carcieri was going away until she saw news accounts that he was already abroad.

The Lt. Governor is a Democrat, and a woman, and clearly didn’t get invited to the important meetings. Reading Kiersten Marek’s ‘Partisanship Putting Everyone in Danger’ is enough to give you heartburn — especially the absurd excuse that the Lt.Gov. was kept out of the loop for security reasons. Yeah, I feel more secure now that Gov. Carcieri went to Iraq and got his picture taken.

But I’m not interested in watching various officials throw blame around. I just want to see them start working together and come up with a better plan so this doesn’t happen again.

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2 responses

  1. Jesse from Cranston

    Of more concern to me, at least today (Monday 12.17), is the poor quality of the local response. Sure, the main roads are passable — but in the neighborhoods the condition is hit-or-miss. A few roads near the Stadium are still caked with three inches of ice, broken up by tire tracks caked with two inches of ice. Couldn’t the city spare a little salt?

    I’m with you, Nancy. Better planning is needed.

  2. A few years back I lived in NH. This is a stat that did not have a state income tax. When it snowed there, which is probably 3 times more often than in RI, the city had small plows/snowblowers they would run down the sidewalks of the mainstreet and clear them. Sidewalks on the side streets were up to the resident owners.

    I also thought that an hour delay was so the school department could clear the sidewalks at the schools- what a mistake that was. Again- our children forced to walk on the icy streets of the city. How can a city enforce the laws, they themselves do not even aknowledge.

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