EDITORIAL: Public owed evaluation of blizzard preparations, plan for future storms

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They didn’t die in a sudden tsunami or earthquake or volcanic eruption. There wasn’t a mass explosion or a mass shooter.

The blizzard that struck the Buffalo region over the weekend was predicted well in advance and arrived in an area that’s accustomed to massive snowstorms.

Yet more than 30 people have died so far, freezing to death in cars, in homes or on the street — many while seeking warm shelter, food or emergency assistance.

It would be a disservice to the people who died, and an insult to their families, for government officials to slough off the blame to Mother Nature, credit themselves for the best response they could muster, and allow the inevitable next massive storm to bring more tragedy, without critically evaluating the preparation and response to the storm.

Government officials, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, said they were fully ready with equipment, personnel and supplies, and they warned people to stock up on food and to stay off the roads. But how prepared were they, really?

There’s no doubt the storm overwhelmed emergency responders, plow drivers and power company crews. Drivers at times were barely able to see a couple of feet past their windshields, and even the largest equipment got stuck.

But many winter states have equipment that can maneuver in several feet of snow. Why doesn’t the Buffalo area have more of that type of equipment, and why wasn’t more outside help with that kind of capacity called in — including more National Guard troops?

Another issue: Advising people to stock up on food and supplies is worthless if the poorest citizens can’t afford more than a day’s groceries or don’t have ready access to stores, such as in areas deemed “food deserts.” Were the needs of the poorest neighborhoods adequately addressed in the preparations?

Another: How much of an effort did officials employ to ensure everyone got the word about the seriousness of the storm? New York City and other cities make an extra effort to reach people when something like this is impending.

As far as power outages that led to people losing heat and electricity: Why does an area that regularly gets whipped by gale-force winds and lake-effect snow not have more of its power infrastructure buried underground? We understand that’s expensive, but isn’t having it better than thousands of people being vulnerable to freezing due to outages? If the state can afford $800 million for a football stadium for Buffalo’s NFL team, it can afford to bury the power lines.

Government officials owe it to the families of the people who died, and to the people who live in the path of future storms, to provide an honest and detailed evaluation of existing preparations and to provide a plan for addressing the inadequacies that led to the latest tragedies.

To paraphrase an old saying, ‘Those who don’t learn from history are doomed.’

Categories: Editorial, Opinion, Opinion

One Comment

The Hochul Administration, the one that’s changing Albany and is the most transparent in State history is really none of those things, and introspection isn’t in their skill set. I wouldn’t expect to hear a single word about what did and didn’t go well.

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