Katrina mistakes avoidable

Commissioners address disaster scenarios

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In light of Hurricane Katrina, Moffat County officials want to be prepared for the worst in this area should disaster strike. A massive snowstorm or a disaster at the power plant are possibilities that local officials have to talk about.

Moffat County Commis-sioners met with county emergency manager Larry Dalton on Tuesday to discuss setting up an exercise to practice the county's response to a disaster.

Commissioner Darryl Steele set up the meeting after watching coverage of the destruction on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

"I know how much criticism those people are getting down there," Steele said about the local officials in New Orleans who he says, "dropped the ball."

"We don't want that to happen here," Steele said.

Steele asked Dalton to set up an exercise similar to the one the county did two years ago to prepare for a forest fire. The fire exercise had emergency responders simulate what they would do if there were a massive forest fire in Moffat County.

"That was a really good exercise," Steele said. "I would like to see us do something similar."

Dalton said he would try to have an exercise scheduled for early next year.

Moffat County doesn't have the same level of risk as New Orleans, which sits below sea level, but the commissioners said a disaster is still possible in the region.

Commissioner Saed Tayyara said that if the dam at Elkhead Reservoir were to break, Craig could experience a flood similar to the Big Thompson flood that killed 145 people near Estes Park in 1976.

Steele said a snowstorm that dumped six feet of snow in one night wouldn't be unheard of.

"That's a possibility because I've seen it virtually happen," Steele said.

If there were a snowstorm like that, Steele said he would like to see a plan in place to get Road and Bridge workers out of their homes to clear the roads.

Dalton said Moffat County is prepared for a disaster, whether it's manmade or natural.

He said part of the problem in New Orleans was that emergency managers didn't realize how big the problem was.

"Local officials needed to realize sooner it was out of their control," Dalton said.

Steele and Dalton said maintaining communication between federal and local officials would be key in a disaster.

Dalton said the state's 800-megaherz radio system would make communication easier because federal responders could plug into the system from a variety of locations across the state.

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