I would never compare a snowstorm, even one that dropped feet of snow on Colorado and western Kansas, to the devastation of a city by hurricane Katrina. But there were important lessons in the days preceding and following that destruction which should have been learned, not least about the importance of mobilizing assistance quickly when natural disasters overwhelm private citizens and local governments.
Which is why President Bush’s disaster aid for Kansas is so disappointing:
In Kansas, 44 counties and some nonprofit organizations in the western part of the state will receive aid for debris removal and other emergency measures.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R‑Kan., said the declaration was not adequate because it only offers the state access to two of the seven major types of public disaster assistance.
In a meeting Monday at the White House, Roberts urged President Bush to expand the declaration to include other aid such as assistance for public utilities, roads, bridges, water control facilities and public buildings.
Roberts said federal officials did not appear to realize how devastating the storm had been or how quickly action was needed.
“We are told that debris removal does not cover the removal of snow,” Roberts said in an emotional speech on the Senate floor.
“If you’re from western Kansas or you’re out on the high plain and you have 30 inches of snow and 15 foot snow drifts and you can’t remove the snow because it can’t be categorized as debris,” Roberts said, “how on earth can you reach the debris that’s underneath the snow?”
As in New Orleans, and as will be the case after the next earthquake, hurricane, tornado, blizzard or terrorist attack, the federal government is standing in the way of disaster response, rather than being out in front of the recovery effort.
I hope Congressman Moran is also working the phones to get help for his constituents, and I’d urge residents of the affected areas to contact the White House and add your voices to those of your representatives.