By Aaron Creighton
My father always said that, when you ask for help and someone gives it, you should be grateful and let them know it. I think that certainly applies in relation to the emergency response we received to the once in 50-year blizzard that hit the mountain.
I started writing this several days ago with the intent to keep it on the high road and save criticism of the details of the response for later. I am still planning to do that, but we do need to talk about one thing here that is a systemic problem that we have witnessed for years with our public agencies. I’ll save that part for the end.
First, our elected officials – Supervisor Rowe, Assemblyman Lackey, Senator Ochoa Bogh and Congressman Obernolte – all did exactly as they should have done and went to Governor Newsom for a state Emergency Declaration. That declaration was made, which allowed funding and emergency aid from numerous government agencies. Governor Newsom called up the California National Guard to help out and help they did. In a major way.
We’ve seen countless personnel from all over the state here and they’ve been amazing. I asked the County Public Information Officer David Wert to supply me with a comprehensive list of all the agencies that have responded. I have yet to receive that list, but it’s likely quite long.
Subsequent to Governor Newsom issuing the state Emergency Declaration, he requested President Biden issue a Federal Emergency Declaration and that request was granted. That will open up federal resources to help with this disaster.
All of these people did exactly as they should have done and, as a result, we received, and will receive, the help we need to get through this. I want to congratulate all of those elected officials for their diligence in doing what obviously needed to be done to mitigate this disaster.
Supervisor Rowe’s office also handled thousands of calls and got things done quickly for individual citizens. I’m aware of many instances in which they received reports of specific citizens in trouble and they pulled strings to expedite getting those citizens help. These actions likely saved lives.
There is a tendency, when disasters happen, for frustrated citizens to want to be critical of the response. This is rightfully so and, with anything this big, there are probably a lot of legitimate criticisms. Those are mainly things I will save for another day, and they are legitimate to discuss. Hopefully, in discussing them going forward, the agencies responsible for disaster relief will find ways to improve.
The only thing I am going to mention here by way of criticism is that messaging could have been much better on the part of Caltrans, the CHP, the sheriff and the county in general. I’ve always observed that, in the absence of information, people will fill that void with something and that something isn’t always true or helpful.
I would suggest to these agencies that they would send better messaging if they stopped only announcing what they planned to do and added in their rationale for doing it. Yes, it would open them up to more criticism, but it would also appease public speculation, which is known to reach high pitch in the absence of information.
Overall, at least for this week, I want to thank all of those leaders and agencies for doing what they did and for doing it well.