Monday, May 07, 2007


Notice anything unusual about this story: Greensburg focuses on rebuilding

Federal officials arrived Monday in ravaged Greensburg to survey the damage caused by the weekend's tornado-packed storms.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius expressed concern that rescue and recovery efforts were being strained because much of the needed equipment has been sent to Iraq.

"When the troops get deployed, the equipment goes with them. So here in Kansas about 50 percent of our trucks are gone. We need trucks. We are missing Humvees, we're missing all kinds of equipment that could help us respond in this kind of emergency," she said.

The weekend's storms killed 11 people in Kansas -- including nine deaths in Greensburg, one in Stafford County to the northeast and one in a separate storm in Ottawa, Kansas.

Previously, officials said 10 people died in Greensburg, but authorities said they had apparently counted someone twice, according to City Administrator Steve Hewitt.

Hewitt also said a man reported to be a survivor found in the rubble had actually returned to the town to retrieve some papers and was not rescued.

Storm destroys resources needed for recovery

Search and rescue efforts were continuing after Friday's mile-wide twister with winds of 205 mph leveled most of the town.

Sebelius said city and county trucks were destroyed in the storm.

"National Guard are our first responders. They don't have the equipment they need to come in, and it'll just make it that much slower," she said.

The National Guard has said for years that it is short of equipment at home because of deployments to Iraq.

"We weren't fully equipped with all the resources we need before the war started," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting of the Kansas National Guard, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "further depleted us."

Lt. Col. Eric Peck of the Kansas National Guard said in addition to being short transportation equipment, they also are short of front-end loaders and other heavy vehicles that can move debris.

He said the Guard troops are providing security, generators and water. They're also moving debris, but not as fast as they could if they had a full complement of equipment.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Monday the National Guard has stockpiles of equipment stashed around country for emergencies. "The administration is doing whatever it can. If there's a need for equipment, it will arrive."

Feds pledge to help

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, said the area was "a total disaster."

"It is a difficult thing to see and I'm sure a much more difficult thing to live through," he said. (Watch as town tries to cope after tornado )

Brownback, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator David Paulison and congressmen from the area joined Sebelius and local officials in Greensburg to pledge as much federal assistance as needed.

Paulison said FEMA has trailers ready to come into the area for temporary housing as soon as locations are found to put them.

"It's horrendous," Paulison said of the devastation, "some of the worst I've ever seen. It's pretty much total destruction."

FEMA, he said, will "assist the state and assist the local community to get this community back on its feet."

Bunting said in some ways the damage is worse than Hurricane Katrina, because the entire city is in ruins.

"There's no place to go to stage to rebuild," said Bunting, a nearly 30-year veteran of the Guard. "We'll have to create that."

Gov.: Kansans are resilient

Despite the stretched resources, Sebelius was confident Greensburg would rebuild. (Watch treetops sheared off amid a flying American flag )

"Kansans are resilient," she said, echoing a depiction of Midwesterners offered by other state and federal officials in the wake of the devastation.

"We have an opportunity to rebuild an entire rural community," Sebelius said, adding that the "eyes of America are on us."

The city should have a plan to get water and power restored within 24 hours, making trailer hook-ups feasible, according to Sebelius, a Democrat.

I find it interesting that they give Sebelius' claims complaining about the Iraq war in the second paragraph of the story, and fail to identify her as a Democrat until paragraph number 26.

When a Republican is mentioned is it thusly:

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, said the area was "a total disaster."

One might start to think that the writer didn't want readers to consider if the Governor was using this tragedy to score other political points. Maybe she was, maybe she wasn't. Either way it should be up to readers to decide.


I'm not the only one picking up on this. Kansas Guard can’t respond to tornado emergency?

Au contrair says the DoD:

More than 300 members of the Kansas National Guard have been activated in response to a powerful tornado that almost destroyed the town of Greensburg, Kan., May 4.

Guard members are assisting in search-and-rescue efforts in the wake of the tornado, which was classified as an F-5, the highest rating given by the National Weather Service.

The tornado wiped out much of the small town, knocking out power, water, natural gas and communications. To date, 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries have been reported.

The Kansas National Guard's 278th Sustainment Brigade has established a joint task force near the incident site. In addition to search-and-rescue efforts, the troops are working on power generation, logistical support, debris clearing, support to law enforcement, supporting establishment of shelters and distribution of food and water.

Currently, the Kansas National Guard has 88 percent of its forces available, 60 percent of its Army Guard dual-use equipment on hand, and more than 85 percent of its Air Guard equipment on hand, said Randal Noller, public affairs officer for the National Guard Bureau. Under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which is a national partnership agreement that allows state-to-state assistance during governor or federally declared emergencies, Kansas has more than 400,000 Guardsmen available to it, he pointed out. However, Kansas has not yet requested assistance from other states.

"Has not yet been requested ...". Where have we heard that before (calling Gov. Blanco)? I mean, if it were that dire, what would you do first?

And a point here ... we're talking about a town of 1500, not millions, so to pretend that a Guard force with 60 percent of its equipment available isn't enough (and that doesn't include the 85% of its Air Guard equipment) is simply baloney.

But here's the real question?

Who, in this case, politicized the tragedy?

Also see this from Stubborn Facts.


Anonymous said...

I don't think that you can use the first story as an example of bias, as much as you can use it either as an example of bad journalism, or a puzzling editorial policy.

Being a fairly avid reader of the news, I have more and more found myself frustrated with stories that refuse to tell me party affiliation until later in the story. I have found this true in stories about both Republicans and Democrats. Somewhere along the line, the standards about this have changed, just as, in many newspapers, news stories are often written like features, at times delaying the specifics of a story until the third or fourth paragraph.

In the case of, an admittedly cursory examination found a pattern--party affiliations of governors not immediately identified until very late in the story (see ) while senators and house members were usually ID'd right after their name. Maybe that's because a writer must identify a state for a federal lawmaker as well.

This has no bearing on your point about the actions of the Kansas Governor, but probably a more thorough survey of CNN stories is needed before attributing the lack of party identification to a bias on the part of the writer

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Oh I'd probably go along that the reporter simply isn't very good at his or her craft. (And I guess the editorial staff wouldn't be much better either if they signed off on it as well.)

However, they also show a lack of critical thinking. A good reporter would hear such a claim and immediately question it. Asking questions like, "Is this really the case?" or "Could there be a poltiical motive behind this claim?" and a host fo others. There is no evidence that ANY of those possibilities were even contemplated, for even a second.

You are probably right and this is mostly a case of shoddy reporting, but I wonder if there are some (many) reporters who are less prone to asking tough questions of one side when compared to the other.

Tully said...

You'd think that not just her party, but her position as CHAIR of the Democratic Governors Association would be worthy of a mention.

And as I've pointed out, not only were we NOT lacking in sufficient National Guard equipment, the region is not lacking in equipment, period. There's some kind of perception that no one can get anything done without the government's "help." Maybe that's true where the reporters live, but it's sure not true here in Kansas.

By the time the first rescue and emergency crews arrived, the highway that the town straddles (US 54) had been cleared of rubble and debris, by locals wielding chainsaws and pickups, and most of those who needed rescuing had been rescued. By their neighbors, from both in and out of town.

By the time the sun came up on Saturday morning, eight hours after the tornado hit, the streets of the town had been cleared--by locals--freeing up the search and rescue and emergency crews to treat and transport wounded and search for more survivors.

By noon the "official" emergency response people had cleared the town of local volunteers. The only real problem was too many people showing up to help!

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Yeah, there is a sense that Sebelius somehow WANTED this to be a repeat of Katrina.

Ah, but wishing wont make it so.