Tag Archives: FEMA

Biden fluffs Maui response

I am going to join President Biden’s critics who are scolding him for his oddly tone-deaf response to the wildfires that wiped out a historic community in Hawaii.

The president was far off his game when the fires began ravaging the island of Maui. The town of Lahaina, known for its historic exhibits and artifacts, at this moment no longer exists. Joe Biden’s first response when asked if he planned to visit the state and examine the damage was a terse “no comment.” Then he said he would go at the right time.

Americans have every right to expect their president to rise to occasions such as the one brought on by the horrific fire that destroyed a town, killed more than 100 citizens and has all but wiped out a local economy by rendering its tourist trade almost non-existent.

I heard some chatter about the president not wanting to get in the way of rescue and recovery efforts. That’s nonsense.

Yes, President Biden did issue an emergency declaration, clearing the way for federal aid to be rushed to help the residents of Maui. And, yes, he and first lady Jill Biden did take time away from their family vacation this past week to walk among the ruins to offer their moral support to a grieving community.

The deadliest wildfire in our nation’s history deserved far more than the tepid response it produced from the president of the United States.

Biden expands disaster list

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Someone must have gotten to President Biden, or perhaps to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Biden administration today added 31 Texas counties to the president’s list of 77 counties that fell within the major disaster declaration he issued over the weekend.

Gov. Greg Abbott had called the initial disaster declaration a good start. FEMA, though, added the counties that now are on track to receive greater federal assistance to help them recover from the monstrous winter storm that blanketed and ravaged much of the state.

We’re basking  today in 70-degree sunshine in North Texas. A week ago we were freezing our backsides off with temps plunging to near zero degrees. Our electrical grid failed; our water supply went kaput. Millions of Texans — my wife and I included — were suffering from the cold.

Counties included in this latest approval are Anderson, Austin, Bosque, Bowie, Burnet, Cherokee, Colorado, Erath, Fannin, Freestone, Gonzales, Grayson, Gregg, Harrison, Hill, Houston, Hunt, Jackson, Jim Wells, Jones, Limestone, Lubbock, Medina, Milam, Navarro, Rusk, Taylor, Tom Green, Val Verde, Washington, Wood.

I am particularly heartened to see Hunt and Fannin counties added to the disaster-listed jurisdictions. My joy, though, pales compared to what officials there and in the other counties are feeling.

The list of 77 counties now has grown to 108 out of a total of 254 Texas counties. As Gov. Abbott said: It’s a start.

Biden declares 77 Texas counties to be in ‘major disaster’ mode

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wanted all 254 of Texas’s counties to qualify for “major disaster” relief from the U.S. government.

President Biden granted that status to 77 of them, or a just a bit less than one-third of what Abbott had sought in the wake of the terrible Texas snow and ice storm.

I saw the list of all the counties and, as a Collin County resident, I was heartened to see my county on the list of declared places, along with Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Others in our immediate area received the designation. So did other major counties, such as Bexar, Travis, Harris and their immediate surrounding jurisdictions.

One of the regions where I once lived, the Golden Triangle, also got the disaster declaration, but the Texas Panhandle did not get that designation.

I was struck, though, by the absence of Hunt County from the list of counties to receive federal aid under the designation. Commerce’s water supply system went kaput. It came back, but the city has been on a boil-water advisory for several days; the advisory is expected to last a while longer.

What does it take, therefore, for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to declare a county a “major disaster” when that county is suffering through, um, a major disaster?

I cannot really know what goes into the decision-making processes within FEMA. I just am an observer of how various jurisdictions within my particular orbit are dealing with the mess that the storm has left behind. From my perch in Collin County, it looks for all the world like our neighbors to our east — in Hunt County — are going through precisely the same tragedy that Mother Nature brought to my neighbors and my family members.

Abbott called the disaster declaration from President Biden a “good first step” in helping our state recover. Perhaps a “good next step” would be to expand the list of counties that receive this disaster declaration.

President for ‘all Americans’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden’s campaign pledge to be “president for all Americans, not just those who voted” for him sprang to mind as he made a major disaster declaration for Texas.

Why is that a big — or even a medium deal? It’s because his predecessor at times politicized these decisions, taking aim at officials in states that didn’t vote for him in the 2016 election; the California wildfire disaster comes immediately to mind.

Biden approves major disaster declaration for Texas: FEMA (msn.com)

President Biden has told the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pull out all the stops to help Texas recover from the monstrous winter blast that knocked power out for millions of Texans and continues to cause major water-quality problems for thousands of us.

It’s interesting, too, that the White House has been working closely and feverishly with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who was one of those who refused to recognize initially that Joe Biden, a card-carrying Democrat, was really and truly elected president in 2020.

None of that matters one damn bit … not to Gov. Abbott now or to the president.

Presidents do govern the entire country and must answer to all Americans. They also must set aside partisan differences when Americans are suffering.

As the saying goes: We live in the United States of America.

City, FEMA haggle over disaster aid

(AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Parrish Velasco) 

Dallas got clobbered on Oct. 20 by a tornado that tore through the city, causing considerable damage totaling something well north of $35 million.

The city is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency for federal help as the city seeks to rebuild from Mother Nature’s wrath.

FEMA is balking. The feds are insisting that the damage level doesn’t rise to the level of a presidential disaster declaration. Local officials argue that, au contraire, it certainly does reach that level.

The feds say the city must suffer at least $38.5 million in damage for FEMA to seek a disaster declaration. According to the Dallas Morning News, Elizabeth Reich, the city’s chief financial officer, said the disaster totals have surpassed $45 million.

Good grief, FEMA. The city needs help. Schools have been forced to close because the tornado destroyed their structures; children have been uprooted and sent to other schools far from their neighborhoods; their families have been traumatized.

Isn’t the federal government supposed to respond to communities such as Dallas that have been ravaged by forces well beyond human control?

One issue appears to be the city’s street signal system, which reportedly is outdated. The storm knocked many of the signals out. FEMA doesn’t want to help the city cover the deductible costs it would incur by trying to restore service to the signals as well as begin work on repair all the damage that the storm inflicted.

In my view, FEMA is quibbling with a stricken major American city’s public officials.

As the DMN reported: “It seems as if this should be declared a disaster,” said Reich. “It clearly has been for the community, and it will take a long time to recover. We need all the help from our federal partners we can get.”

Well, FEMA, are you there for the city … or not?

Feeling oddly ‘guilty’ as Michael thrashes Florida Panhandle

Call it a form of “survivor’s guilt,” if you wish.

I am feeling oddly out of place today as I watch the news out of Florida, Alabama, Georgia and possibly the Carolinas. Our fellow Americans are enduring Hurricane Michael’s unprecedented wrath.

Here? In North Texas? Oh, my. Our weather is postcard-perfect: 70 degrees, bright sunshine, a light breeze. Fall has arrived in the Metroplex.

Not so for our friends and fellow citizens way down yonder, southeast of us!

The Carolinas are still recovering from the havoc that Hurricane Florence brought ashore. Now it’s Hurricane Michael’s turn to become flood Americans with indelible memories of just how savage Mother Nature’s wrath can become.

It blasted ashore after being spotted only a few days ago. Hurricane preparedness officials had little time to plan how to cope with it. To its credit, federal, state and local authorities mustered their first responders who — as is their custom — reacted heroically in the face of the storm’s savagery.

Meanwhile, those of us far away are basking in sunshine. We’re also sending all the good karma and prayers we can to those who at this moment are fighting for their lives against forces far beyond mere humans’ meager limits.

If all of that assuages my feelings of guilt, well, it doesn’t matter. I just want this storm to do what it will do … and then vanish.

Ship ahoy, Cajun navy!

Every major event always seems to produce something of a “back story” that brings a smile to our face and expressions of gratitude for the bravery of average Americans.

Hurricane Florence stormed ashore this morning and delivered a punishing blow to the Carolina coastline. It meandered inland and has been “downgraded” to a tropical storm.

Five people have died from the storm’s wrath. We are saddened at that news.

Cajun navy enters the fray

Then we have the Cajun navy, which has raced to the Carolinas from Texas and Lousiana. The Cajun navy is a collection of watercraft. As MSN.com has reported: As Hurricane Florence trudged west off the sea into the Carolinas, an armada of kayaks, fishing boats, shallow-draft duck hunting boats, airboats and pirogues moved north and east from Texas and Louisiana to meet the storm. As the rains and winds began to whip the coastline, the all-volunteer flotilla settled in.

Bring it on, they said. The Cajun Navy has arrived.

The task of this “fleet” has been to rescue Carolinians stranded by the storm’s fury. They have been pulling people out of their flooded homes and motor vehicles and taking them to safety.

Man, this is what Americans do for each other.

There’s more from MSN.com: Just as they did last summer in Texas during Hurricane Harvey, a group of grass-roots, ragtag search and rescuers have moved into Florence’s path, hoping to offer their services to the flooded, the marooned, the injured. Credited with rescuing thousands of people and pets during Harvey’s unprecedented rains, they plan to do it all again, a vigilante crew trying to assist the government’s rescue efforts.

Yes, federal, state and local governments are rallying at this moment to provide assistance. Yet it’s the outpouring of selflessness exemplified by the Cajun navy that gives many of us hope in the goodness of a nation that rushes to the aid of those in distress.

This story fills me with pride.

Storm response might reveal truth about Maria

Donald J. Trump, as is his habit, told a serious lie when looking back on the administration’s response to Hurricane Maria’s devastating attack on Puerto Rico.

He called it an “unsung success,” which it wasn’t. It was a disastrous display of incompetence.

So … now the administration is preparing for another monstrous storm. Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the Carolina coast. Federal emergency management officials have ordered evacuations along Atlantic coasts of North and South Carolina.

The president said this week that “we’re ready” for the storm to make landfall. It will land likely as a Category 4 monster, packing winds of 150 mph, producing storm surges exceeding a dozen feet and bringing as much as 2 feet of rainfall.

We’re about to see just how well the government can respond to Mother Nature’s wrath. In a curious sense, we’ll also get to compare this response to what the president described as a glowing success a year ago when Hurricane Maria killed nearly 3,000 Americans in Puerto Rico.

I damn sure want the government to deliver on its promise of being “ready” for this storm, even if its response to Hurricane Florence reveals where the feds fell short in the Caribbean.

The nation is hoping for the best.

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.

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.