Katrina Redux? Beaumont Paper Finds Federal Storm Failure in Texas

By: E&P Staff

In Beaumont, Texas, claims that federal relief agencies learned their lessons from Hurricane Katrina and are on the ball in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita are apparently ringing hollow. The Beaumont (Tex.) Enterprise reported tonight that disaster response coordinators in the area hard hit by Rita say they are seeing the same foot-dragging federal response this weekend witnessed two weeks ago in New Orleans and Mississippi.

Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith and other local leaders, “haggard after days of almost non-stop work with little sleep, pleaded with the federal government to get itself in a higher gear,” the paper said. Griffith said he wanted to return services to residents who remain but that “it seems like they can’t figure out how to get it done.”

“There’s a drastic shortage of generators in Beaumont to provide emergency power,” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said. “There are generators at Ford Park, and FEMA is withholding their release. They want to finish their damage assessment.”

Jefferson County officials had a plan to distribute Meals-Ready-to-Eat from local fire stations, the paper said. However, Griffith said the MREs, like the generators, were being withheld by FEMA.

“They won’t let us have them,” Griffith said. “They said we had to go through the state – which we already did – to get them. I’m going over there (to Ford Park) now to figure this out.”

Looters have struck in town, but had to be let go because there is no safe place to jail them right now. Officials have asked FEMA to provide temporary jail quarters.

The Enterprise has not published a print edition this weekend but provided PDFs of a scaled-down version on its still-active Web site. It included a note there Sunday: “We will publish a home edition as soon as we possibly can.”

Griffith said he’s sending fire officials to local stores to get supplies, including propane to cook with. “We’re going into stores and taking food out,” Griffith said. “We’re going to do what we got to do to get the job done….

“There’s just a breakdown in the state and federal government that you saw in Katrina and you’ve seen in other disasters,” Griffith said. He said he hopes to see a change “so at least the next people that have to go through it … will have some kind of process that makes sense that can immediately deliver what people need.”

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