Hundreds line up for free supplies in isolated Wilmington
By CHUCK BURTON and MARTHA WAGGONER
Tuesday, September 18
WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Still stranded by Florence’s epic floods days after the hurricane hit North Carolina, Wilmington residents lined up by the hundreds Tuesday for free food, water and tarps as officials struggled to open new routes to one of the state’s largest cities.
The death toll from the storm rose to at least 32 in three states, with 25 fatalities in North Carolina, as remnants of the once-powerful Category 4 hurricane — now reduced to a rainy, windy mass of low pressure — dumped rain on the heavily populated Northeast.
In Wilmington, population 120,000, workers began handing out supplies using a system that resembled a fast-food restaurant drive-thru: Drivers pulled up to pallets lining a street, placed an order and left without having to get out.
Todd Tremain needed tarps to cover up spots where Florence’s winds ripped shingles off his roof. “The roof is leaking, messing up the inside of the house,” he said.
Others got a case of bottled water or military MREs, or field rations. An olive-green military forklift moved around huge pallets loaded with supplies.
Four days after Florence blew ashore and began unloading more than 2 feet of rain that paralyzed much of North Carolina, Wilmington was still virtually cut off from the rest of the state, with just one road tentatively open as a supply route. Officials said they will open roads as flooding recedes and downed trees and power lines are cleared away. It’s not clear when that might happen.
Items have been brought into the city by big military trucks and helicopters, which also have been used to pluck hundreds of desperate people from atop homes and other structures.
“Thank you,” a shirtless Willie Schubert mouthed to members of a Coast Guard helicopter crew who picked up him and his dog Lucky from atop a house encircled by water in Pollocksville on Monday. It wasn’t clear how long he had been stranded.
The dead include a 1-year-old boy who was swept away after his mother drove into floodwaters and lost her grip on him. Authorities in Virginia said one person was dead after an apparent tornado.
The rain finally stopped and the sun peeked through on Monday, but North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned that dangerously high water would persist for days. He urged residents who were evacuated from the hardest-hit areas to stay away because of closed roads and floodwaters that submerged entire communities.
“There’s too much going on,” he said.
Utility crews from multiple states worked to restore power, and outages were down from a high of more than 900,000 to about 320,000 homes and businesses, nearly all in North Carolina.
Crews conducted about 700 rescues in New Hanover County, where Wilmington is located. About half of all homes and businesses were without power Tuesday, a big improvement from a day earlier. Roads were being cleared and the landfill was open to accept storm refuse.
Mayor Bill Saffo said he was working with the governor’s office to get more fuel into Wilmington.
“At this time, things are moving as well as can be in the city,” he said.
Downgraded from a tropical depression, the deadly storm still had abundant rain and top winds around 25 mph (40 kph). Forecasters said states in the Northeast are in for as much as 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain before the system moves offshore again.
Waggoner reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Associated Press photographer Steve Helber in Pollocksville, North Carolina, and AP writers Jonathan Drew in Lumberton, North Carolina; Gary Robertson in Raleigh; and Jay Reeves in Atlanta contributed to this report.
Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc
For the latest on Hurricane Florence, visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes
Sending help where it’s needed most after disasters
Author: Johanna Amaya Leal, Assistant Professor of Supply Chain Management, Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business, Iowa State University
Disclosure statement: Johanna Amaya Leal received funding from the National Science Foundation for her research related to this article.
After costly and deadly disasters, large deliveries of supplies – whether they are needed or not – arrive. So do throngs of people who want to pitch in.
But while studying the responses to many disasters, including hurricanes Maria and Harvey and earthquakes in Ecuador and Nepal, I’ve observed the same problem over and over: Too much aid goes to some areas while other places with great need get too little help or none at all.
When relief agencies mobilize, many of them decide where to go based on what they have heard through the news media or their sources in the area. Most of the time, these groups do not coordinate among themselves, which means they frequently converge in the same places.
Often, that means remote areas, which might need the most help, don’t get enough of it. This was the case for many people located in the mountainous areas of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria impacted the island.
The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters has led an effort to fix this problem since its inception in 1970. The United Nations Logistics Cluster, a group of organizations working to improve international humanitarian emergency responses began to play a similar role around the world in 2005.
Unfortunately, groups do not always report to these organizations when responding to a disaster. Their participation is completely voluntary. When groups are asked to respond to a need, it does not mean others are not already working there.
One reason my colleagues and I have found for this continued duplication of efforts is the urge among aid groups to get media coverage on the ground, which is unlikely to happen when they help out in remote areas.
I believe that there’s an approach that could work: Asking all groups to report to a local response coordinator. The coordinator could assign them to the areas where they should serve.
The local coordinator or the authority in charge of the response would subdivide the disaster zone by assigning each relief group an area to operate in, being mindful of the capacity of these organizations and the actual needs on the ground.
Eliminating the duplication of efforts would make better use of the many groups that are willing to help, such as community groups and companies, but need more guidance to make a real difference.
Examples of the work to be done include the distribution of shelf-stable food, medicines, cleaning supplies and gift cards, as well as the tools and training required to rebuild.
This outreach, like all preparedness and response planning, must begin long before disasters happen. Divvying up these tasks when it counts requires knowing a lot about each group and its capacity beforehand. But there is evidence that it’s not as hard as it might sound to pull off.
When PACIV, a private engineering company based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, started working on hurricane response on the island, it noticed that most of the help was being sent to the same areas.
The company mobilized its own foundation to help people in isolated towns who needed medical treatment, prescription drugs and electric generators for dialysis and other life-sustaining purposes. PACIV used its own personnel and resources to identify the areas with the greatest unmet needs, collect cash donations and deliver supplies.
I see this experience as evidence that more local groups and companies could be playing a bigger role after disasters, especially if official response efforts were coordinated better.
As campaign cash rolls in, 2 House races tilt to Democrats
By MARC LEVY
Saturday, September 15
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Money is starting to pour into Pennsylvania’s midterm congressional races and, with the GOP’s control of the U.S. House on the line, ominous signs are surfacing for Republicans in races that several months ago had been considered even contests.
Republican groups, including the National Republican Congressional Committee, have begun airing TV attack ads to protect freshman Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in suburban Philadelphia and to try to oust three-term Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright in northeastern Pennsylvania, where President Donald Trump did unexpectedly well in 2016.
But Republican groups are not spending money — yet, anyway — in two closely watched contests: one in suburban Pittsburgh and one in the Allentown area that had been viewed as tossups after May’s primary election.
Pennsylvania, with 18 congressional seats, is a crucial building block in the Democratic effort to wipe out the GOP’s 23-seat House majority, and Democrats have reason to be optimistic about capturing several seats.
Polls are finding that Democratic voters inflamed by Trump are more enthusiastic about voting in the Nov. 6 election, and a court-ordered redrawn map of district boundaries is giving them hope in places they had had little before.
“For all those years we had five congresspeople out of 18 and that meant that only five districts in Pennsylvania identified Democratically,” Nancy Patton Mills, the state Democratic Party chairwoman, told a party dinner crowd earlier this month. “And now, we have 18 districts and they’re all in play.”
Under the old districts, Republicans won 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 seats in three straight elections, but newly drawn suburban seats around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, in particular, are within their grasp.
In two open Republican seats in suburban Philadelphia, Democrats Chrissy Houlahan and Mary Gay Scanlon, both first-time candidates, are heavy favorites.
In an Allentown-area seat, Democrat Susan Wild and Republican Marty Nothstein are vying for an open seat, and analysts had once viewed the contest as even.
But Wild has a substantial cash advantage, and a new Monmouth University poll shows Wild ahead in a close race, even though it said neither candidate is particularly well-known.
Nothstein strategist Mark Harris said the campaign is focused on what it can achieve on its own, even if Republican groups have not committed money to the race.
“I’m confident that when people are needed in a close race they’ll be there, but all we can do is focus on getting Marty’s commonsense message out there about fixing broken Washington,” Harris said.
In suburban Pittsburgh, newly minted Rep. Conor Lamb is challenging three-term Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus in a quirk of the new court-ordered districts that pits the two incumbents against each other.
Voters in the district gave Trump a slight edge in 2016’s presidential election. But a Monmouth University poll in August found Lamb substantially ahead of Rothfus, likely aided by the $6 million-plus Lamb and Democrats spent to carry him to a narrow, nationally watched victory in a March special election in a solidly Republican district.
Rothfus backers insist he shouldn’t be counted out.
“I think people underestimate Keith,” said Pennsylvania’s Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, who lives in the district. “He’s a very tireless worker and campaigner; he’s well-liked on a personal level.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee postponed a scheduled TV ad buy from September to October. A spokesman, Chris Martin, declined to publicly discuss campaign strategy, but said the NRCC had not reduced the amount of money it reserved to help Rothfus by “one penny.”
On Saturday, Trump issued an endorsement of Rothfus on Twitter, saying he “is strong on Crime, the Border, and our Second Amendment. Loves our Military and our Vets.”
In the meantime, both Rothfus and Lamb avoid mentioning Trump in their TV ads. Rothfus is airing an attack ad that asks, “Who’s Conor Lamb protecting?”
For his part, Lamb attacks “special interests” in an ad that recounts his special election victory: “It was the longest of long shots, a Marine who had never held office up against the most powerful special interests in the nation. … Now Conor’s running again and the same outside groups are back with all their money.”
A Pittsburgh-area Democratic campaign consultant, Mike Mikus, said he expects a solid victory by Lamb, buoyed by Democratic voters in small cities along the Ohio River, suburban Republicans who are repulsed by Trump and disaffected Democrats who backed Trump over Hillary Clinton.
“If I were the Republicans,” Mikus said, “I wouldn’t spend a dime here.”
Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter.
Ted Cruz Sending Donation Mail Disguised as Summonses
Opinion: EPA Endangering U.S. With a Costly, Risky Cleanup Plan
By George Landrith
Believe it or not, the Environmental Protection Agency is considering digging up radiological waste and placing it on trains and shipping it on America’s railways to one or more new locations. Unnecessarily excavating and transporting radiological waste is both dangerous and costly. Every American has reason to be concerned because this is no longer simply a “local issue.”
The West Lake Landfill, near St. Louis, Missouri, was a farm until 1939, when it became a limestone rock quarry. By the early 1950s, it became a landfill. In 1973, part of the landfill was contaminated with soil that had been mixed with leached barium sulfate residues — a low-level radioactive byproduct left over from the Manhattan Project. Fortunately, numerous scientific studies, including those by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the EPA and state agencies, have found that the waste poses no danger to public health. So while landfills are often eyesores and can stink, West Lake is not a health risk.
Nonetheless, the EPA identified the landfill as a Superfund cleanup site in 1990. For the next 28 years, the EPA studied the problem, but did nothing. Experts, including the EPA, thought the best course of action was to seal the contaminated soil and monitor surrounding air, soil and water. The cost of this remediation would be paid by those who were at fault for the contamination — not the taxpayers. This solution made a lot of sense. Sadly, it wasn’t implemented quickly.
Some locals who were understandably frustrated by the EPA’s bureaucratic stiff-arm became infuriated and labor unions saw a chance to get new, lucrative government contracts in the cleanup. So a newfangled plan to dig up the landfill and remove 70 percent of the contaminated soil via railway began to gain support.
The contaminated soil is buried in the landfill and poses no health risk — and once capped and monitored, it will never be a risk. But if the contaminated soil is dug up and loaded into trucks and then onto railway cars and then transported along America’s railway system to new locations, the risk to Americans all along the travel routes is dramatically increased. This could lead to a catastrophe, whereas capping the soil endangers no one and saves money.
It is reasonable to wonder if this proposal isn’t simply an attempt to give angry local activists a concession for having to wait 28 years for action. Or perhaps the recent EPA leadership troubles contributed to this misguided idea. What we do know is that this excavation and massive transportation plan is risky, dangerous and expensive. It makes one wonder if the EPA hasn’t lost its collective mind.
The Coalition to Keep Us Safe — a local organization of citizens, farmers and community leaders that have been advocating for a quick and permanent solution — strongly supports the capping and monitoring solution. The coalition also strongly opposes digging up the landfill and transporting it elsewhere. The facts are on the coalition’s side.
First, even the EPA has determined that excavation is 54 times more dangerous because of possible transportation accidents. The National Transportation Safety Bureau, reports that nearly every two hours a person or vehicle is it by a train with nearly 1,000 deaths per year in train related accidents. About every 90 minutes a train collides with another object or is derailed. Almost every two weeks a train derailment leads to a chemical spill. According to the Department of Transportation, about 80 percent of railroad crossings do not have adequate warning systems. So stirring up buried contaminated soil and loading it in trucks and then on trains makes the likelihood of tragedy much greater — both locally and nationally.
Second, excavation would take much longer to complete — likely 13 years as opposed to two years for the capping and monitoring approach. Thirteen years of trains loaded with leached barium sulfate rolling on America’s railways is a bad idea.
Third, it would cost the taxpayers a great deal more to complete this long-term, less-safe solution — likely $620 million. And given government project cost overruns, it could be a great deal more.
Americans everywhere should be alarmed that the EPA would consider adopting a plan that substantially increases health risks to Americans everywhere —transporting those risks along America’s railways with the potential for derailment and accidents all along the way. This is why the EPA should no longer be in charge of cleanups. There is no way Missouri would have allowed this to go uncorrected for 28 years.
ABOUT THE WRITER
George Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom, a public policy think tank. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.