Tag Archives: Hurricane Maria

Always time to thank first responders

Not quite five years ago I posted an item on High Plains Blogger that thanked the first responders who helped Amarillo cope with a massive snow storm.

This year, we haven’t been through that particular form of discomfort. Our first responders haven’t been pulling motorists out of snow drifts, or worked day and night to restore electrical power.

Others, though, have been busy fighting grassfires that erupt in the wind and bone-dry conditions that have signaled the return of severe drought conditions to the Texas Panhandle.

A special word of thanks goes out today

I’ve noted before in this venue about how we should always appreciate the work of those who answer the call when times get tough.

The Texas Gulf Coast has been through an epic deluge created by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey. The 2017 hurricane season also brought destruction and misery to Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. California residents — from Napa Valley to Santa Barbara — have been victimized by raging flames. Americans throughout the Upper Midwest to the East Coast this winter have been battling unspeakable cold, wind, snow and sleet. So has the Deep South, which has seen record cold.

They, too, depend on those first responders to lend aid, comfort and support.

I am absolutely certain they appreciate all the hard work that goes into their protection.

This is my way of offering yet another word of thanks to the men and women who sign on to rush toward hazard — even danger — on our behalf.

I am grateful to have been spared the monstrous snow event that we’ve witnessed during our 23 years on the Texas High Plains. Yes, I want some moisture to fall from the sky — just not in the amount that poured forth in February 2013.

Our firefighters, police officers, utility crews, emergency medical personnel deserve our thanks always. We need not wait for disaster to visit for us to express appreciation for all that they do.

Heroes are answering the call again

Here we go yet again.

Fires explode across tens of thousands of acres, driven great distances by hurricane-force winds. Homes are incinerated. People’s lives are put in extreme jeopardy. Prized possessions vanish in the extreme heat.

Who answers the call to help? The firefighters, police, emergency medical personnel. That’s who.

It’s happening yet again in southern California. Those dreaded Santa Ana winds are devastating a region and imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.

It should go without saying, but these men and women are the truest heroes imaginable. They run into the firestorm. They fight these unspeakable forces from the air and on the ground. They expose themselves to heat, flame, smoke and utter exhaustion.

And then we have neighbors helping neighbors. They, too, deserve our prayers and good wishes as they all — every one of them — battle to save what they can against forces far stronger than anything they can ever hope to control.

This has been a tough year for so many Americans. The Texas Gulf Coast and Florida are still battling to recover from the savagery of hurricane wind and rain. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands residents cannot yet get full power and potable water restored after enduring their own misery from yet another storm.

The Santa Rosa fires up north from the inferno that is engulfing southern California at this moment brought their own measure of agony to beleaguered residents and the responders who rushed to their aid.

We should salute them all. We should pray for their safety. We should hope for as speedy a recovery as is humanly possible.

Thank you, heroes. All of you make the rest of us so proud.

‘Real disaster’ struck Texas … no kidding!

Texas emergency officials have reported that Hurricane Harvey has killed 88 people.

Eight-eight families have lost loved ones. They are grieving to this day. Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast twice, first as a Category 3 hurricane and then as a tropical storm.

Watching the storm’s savagery from afar, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that it constitutes a “major disaster.” The hurricane blasted the Coastal Bend region with killer winds and storm surge. The tropical storm deluged Houston and the Golden Triangle with unprecedented rainfall: 50 inches in one 24-hour span of time, a record for the continental United States of America.

Harvey hit us real hard

I want to mention this because of something that Donald John Trump Sr. told our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. He seemed to chide them because — at the time of his visit — “only” 16 people had been killed by Hurricane Maria, which destroyed the island’s power grid and its potable water supply.

Yet, the president seemed to suggest that Puerto Rico was “fortunate” to have suffered so little loss of life, unlike what happened to New Orleans in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina stormed ashore.

Well, I guess I ought to remind the president that the Texas coast didn’t suffer the amount of deaths that other storms have brought, but he dare not dismiss the damage from the Coastal Bend to the Golden Triangle as anything short of a major disaster.

Trump cannot stop needling Americans in need

I’m trying to imagine Donald J. Trump threatening to pull federal workers out of a disaster zone if it were in, say, Wyoming. Or Alabama. Or Oklahoma.

Residents of those states voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. Do you think he’d treat them in the same disgraceful manner that he’s treating residents of Puerto Rico?

The president is playing a ridiculous game of political chicken, though, with Puerto Rico, which is suffering from a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions. He has fired Twitter barbs at the San Juan mayor, who has chided the president for the criticism he has leveled at her.

Now he’s delivering threats of a new kind. He says he could pull federal emergency workers out of Puerto Rico if the local government doesn’t start doing more on its own to recover from the savage beating delivered by Hurricane Maria.

Trump blames PR?

Politico reports: “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes,” Trump wrote on Twitter in a series of posts. “Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

He keeps appearing to blame Puerto Rico officials for their inability to maintain certain infrastructure. He went to the island territory and needled the Puerto Ricans because they had drained the nation’s Treasury. “But that’s all right,” Trump said, seeming to make light of the comment he had just made. I doubt any Puerto Rico officials were laughing along with him.

Of course he cannot keep the federal first responders there “forever.” But good grief, can’t he just keep his trap shut and stop chiding the 3.5 million Americans who are suffering through a disaster of unspeakable proportions?

For the umpteenth time, Mr. President: Puerto Ricans are American citizens, too. They need — and deserve — the nation’s unqualified support and assistance.

President delivers consolation

Dear Mr. President …

There. That’s how you do it, sir. You go to a stricken community and you speak solemnly and you offer words of comfort, sorrow and support.

The residents of Las Vegas, indeed the entire nation, are grieving. You spoke to our collective grief today in the wake of the madman’s onslaught Sunday night.

Yes, you surely heard the criticism of your Puerto Rico visit, where millions of other Americans also are grieving — although for entirely different reasons. They faced nature’s wrath in the form of Hurricane Maria. They are hurting, but your remarks there seemed strange, petty and callow. A couple of those photo ops seemed, uh, rather weird. You might want to consider explaining what the paper towel-tossing event was supposed to symbolize.

You then had the chance today deliver another message to our fellow Americans in Las Vegas. I am heartened that you stepped up and said what needed to be said.

I’ll give you a pass for not talking about gun control today. That wasn’t your mission and I understand that. I hope you get around to engaging seriously with all Americans on this matter, even as many of them already have begun debating that issue among themselves.

Today was your time to fulfill your role as comforter in chief. You did that today in Las Vegas. You were right to say, “We cannot be defined by the evil that threatens us or the violence that incites such terror.” Mr. President, we can be defined instead by the heroes of all stripes who rushed to the aid of others stricken by the madman’s evil act.

This is what presidents do, sir. Circumstances sometimes compel you to perform these extraordinary duties. You did so today, Mr. President.

It’s the ‘optics’ that keep bedeviling the president

Donald J. Trump had to know about the damage done by his long-distance feud with San Juan, P.R., Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.

The president surely knew it would be better for him to make nice with the mayor who he had criticized for her “poor leadership” after she criticized the federal response to Puerto Rico’s suffering in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s savage beating.

I fear he didn’t act on that when he went to Puerto Rico. He engaged in at least one peculiar public-relations stunt when he was video recorded tossing rolls of paper towels at a crowd of well-wishers. Someone will have to explain to me what that was supposed to tell us about the president’s concern for those U.S. citizens who are suffering from the hurricane’s devastation.

Then he sat in a meeting with local officials — which included Mayor Cruz — and said that Puerto Rico has cost the United States “billions of dollars, but that’s all right.” I heard that and thought, “Huh?”

The president keeps fluffing this part of his job description, the one that labels him “comforter in chief.”  He’s not making the grade.

President Reagan donned that mantle perfectly after the shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986; President Clinton did it as well in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995; and of course, President Bush stood in the Twin Tower rubble, bullhorn in hand after 9/11, and said “the world will hear all of us soon.”

And can anyone forget the sight of President Obama leading a church congregation in a rendition of “Amazing Grace” at the memorial for the victims of the Charleston, S.C., massacre?

Trump hasn’t yet been able to demonstrate the capacity he needs to show in these times of intense national grief.

Puerto Ricans are suffering. Yet the president treats his visit there like some sort of performance on his part.

He’ll get another chance on Wednesday when he flies to Las Vegas. He’ll get an opportunity to show Americans he cares about that community’s suffering after the madman opened fire at the hotel and casino, killing 59 people and injuring 500-plus more in a hail of automatic weapon fire.

Do you have faith that the president will become comforter in chief?

Me, neither.

‘New low’ for Trump? Yes, but only for now

James Fallows, a journalist of some renown, says Donald J. Trump’s tweet tirades relating to the criticism he’s taking over the government’s response to Hurricane Maria have taken the president to a “new low.”

I agree. I’ll add this caveat, though. It’s a bad news/worse news scenario. The bad news is that Trump’s criticism of local Puerto Rico officials does constitute a “new low” for the president; the worse news is that he quite likely is capable of taking this presidential petulance to an even lower level.

Fallows wrote this in The Atlantic: But his Twitter outburst this morning — as he has left Washington on another trip to one of his golf courses, as millions of U.S. citizens are without water or electricity after the historic devastation of Hurricane Maria, as by chance it is also Yom Kippur — deserves note. It is a significant step downward for him, and perhaps the first thing he has done in office that, in its coarseness, has actually surprised me.

Donald Trump has taken his presidency to a level none of us has ever seen. He’s dragged it to a point that absolutely nothing this guy says or does publicly henceforth would surprise me. Nothing.

He once boasted that he could “shoot someone” and his voters would still support him. I don’t believe he actually would do such a thing, but he’s demonstrating an astonishing knack for doing anything short of that while still engendering support among his Republican voter “base.”

Hurricane Maria has all but destroyed Puerto Rico. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz criticized the president and the federal government’s response to the island’s pleas for help. What does Trump do? He fires off tweets over the weekend — while hobnobbing at his posh New Jersey resort. Let that sink in for a moment: 3.5 million U.S. citizens are without food, potable water and other supplies and the president criticizes Puerto Ricans for wanting the feds “to do everything for them.”

His Twitter tirades have become a virtual staple of the president’s daily activities.

As Fallows writes: I can think of no other example of a president publicly demeaning American officials in the middle of coping with disaster. There were nasty “God’s punishment!” remarks about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, but they did not come from the White House or George W. Bush.

I wish I could believe that there’s no way this president can drag his conduct any farther downward. I am left to wait for the next “new low” to slap us in the face.

How can Trump blunder this part of his job?

The president of the United States takes an oath of office that implies a lot of unwritten responsibilities in addition to those that are explicitly laid out.

One of those tasks the president assumes is to lend aid, comfort, empathy and understanding to Americans in trouble. The president at this moment has a huge undertaking on his hands. It rests on island territories not terribly far from the east coast of the United States.

Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have been decimated by Hurricane Maria. Local officials there are pleading for more help. Yes, they are critical of the president’s public response to their pleas. So, what does Donald John Trump do in response? He fires off tweets that place much of the blame for the islands’ troubles … on the islands themselves.

Such as this one: “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”

It doesn’t stop there. The president takes public note of Puerto Rico’s debt problems that existed prior to Maria’s violent arrival and wonders aloud just how the federal government is going to be able to provide all the assistance that local authorities are seeking.

Trump ignites Twitter tirade

As The Hill reports: “San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz held an emotional press conference Friday ripping the Trump administration’s efforts to assist the island.

“I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency,” she said.

Trump responds to that with more criticism of the mayor. Empathy? Compassion? They appear to be MIA. He’s effectively making himself — big surprise, eh? — the center of this story.

The president’s team keeps telling us he’s “a fighter,” that he doesn’t like getting hit. So, when someone throws a rhetorical punch at him, he’s going to punch back. Does it matter to Trump that the person in this instance who’s throwing punches is desperate for federal aid to save the island where she lives and the city she governs? Quite obviously no.

I’ll reiterate yet again that the president is failing to fulfill the unwritten part of his job description. He’s not lending aid and comfort to his constituents who need help. He’s inflaming an already-critical situation with heartless rhetoric.

Shameful.

Media ‘enemy’ deliver yet again in face of tragedy

Donald J. Trump is going to have to live with a profoundly unfair epithet he hurled at the national news media, which continue to perform the duty their members all signed on to do.

Which is to report the news, to tell the public about their world — the good news and the bad. The media are not, as Trump infamously declared, “the enemy of the American people.”

Let’s look for a moment at the job the media are doing in telling us about Hurricane Maria’s tragic aftermath.

The media have flown into Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. They have encountered virtually impossible working conditions, starting with the total loss of electricity to power the equipment they need to report to the world about the suffering that’s occurring in those two U.S. territories.

They have told the stories of our fellow Americans having to cope with the destruction brought to them by Maria. They have in some cases put themselves in harm’s way. They have exposed themselves to the same elements that are plaguing the citizens of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.

And yet …

The president of the United States continues to chide the media — in his own mind — for failing to tell the world about the “fantastic” job the federal government is doing to deliver aid and comfort to those stricken by the storm.

Get off it, Mr. President! The media have done their job. Just as they always do their job. That the media don’t tell the story precisely to the president’s liking by reporting news that doesn’t cast him in the most positive light possible should not reflect badly on the job the media are doing.

Without the media, the rest of the nation would not know about the struggles, the misery and the heroism being exhibited daily as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands seek to regain their footing.

Keep up the great work, my former colleagues. As for the president, he needs to focus — for once — solely on his job, which is to ensure that our government rescues our fellow citizens from their suffering.

Trump continues to show his lack of humanity

What in the name of human decency is Donald John Trump trying to accomplish with this latest Twitter tirade?

San Juan, P.R., Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz is desperate. She is imploring the federal government to expedite aid to her stricken city, which was pummeled by Hurricane Maria. Yes, she’s been critical of the federal response.

So, what does the president do? He fires off tweets that accuse the mayor of wanting the feds to “do everything.” He praises the federal response, while criticizing the mayor’s leadership. He wrote, according to The Hill: “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” Trump tweeted. “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help.”

Put the Twitter device away

Why cannot this individual, the president, simply do the job to which he was elected? He took an oath to protect Americans. He pledged to care for us and to be there during good times and bad. I get that it’s all an unwritten pledge, but that’s what presidents traditionally have done.

They have avoided being openly critical of fellow Americans during times of peril and strife. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have been ravaged and savaged by Mother Nature’s immense power. The citizens — all of whom are just as American as the president — want their leader to concentrate fully on their well-being. The president is failing that test.

His attack on the embattled mayor is unbecoming — once again — of the high office this man occupies.