Katrina prompts county review of disaster plan

The destruction along the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Katrina has one local official wondering if Moffat County is prepared for a disaster.

"It appears to me that local government there was not prepared for anything even close to what has happened," Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele said. "I don't want that to happen in Moffat County."

Steele has scheduled a discussion during the commissioners meeting Tuesday about Moffat County's preparedness for a disaster, whether it's natural or manmade.

Local governments are the ones who can respond first when an accident occurs, but Steele said the response clearly wasn't fast enough along the Gulf Coast.

"Seeing the tragic thing that has happened down there, it looks like the local level is really where the ball got dropped," Steele said.

At Tuesday's meeting, Steele hopes to meet with Moffat County Emergency Manager Larry Dalton to discuss the county's plans for a disaster.

He said he hopes to do some tabletop exercises about how the county would respond to something catastrophic.

While New Orleans was in a particularly dangerous place because it sits below sea level, Steele said Moffat County isn't immune to a disaster.

One natural disaster that could lead to problems for local government would be a snowstorm that dropped six feet of snow in one night.

Steele said that would be especially bad because it would be hard to get crews out of their houses to remove the snow. He wants to make sure Moffat County has a plan to get crews out of their homes.

"We can probably come up with a pretty good scenario," Steele said.

A possible manmade disaster in the region, Steele said, would be something involving the power plant or a hazardous substance on a rail car.

Emergency Manager Dalton said planning for a disaster can be challenging.

Crews train and are prepared for "the big one," Dalton said, but it can be very difficult to predict exactly what "the big one" will be.

"We are as prepared as we can be," Dalton said. "We try to practice as much as we can."

Dalton said part of the problem in New Orleans has been getting help and supplies to the people who need it. There have been reports of people shooting at helicopters.

"Let them help," Dalton said of the emergency responders.

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