From the Congressional Record of January 8, 2007:
Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. President, I rise today to call your attention to what can only be described as a major disaster in my home State of Kansas and surrounding States--certainly the State represented by the distinguished Presiding Officer--along with New Mexico and eastern Colorado, more especially in western Kansas.
In the last days of December, a large winter storm spread over 30 inches of heavy snow and up to 3 inches of ice in much of my State of Kansas.
As you can see from this picture of what used to be a row of electric towers--a very idyllic scene in Kansas, where we produce the food and fiber this Nation needs--and then from the following picture--I will take this picture down and basically show you what happened after the blizzard--of what remains, this storm has caused overwhelming destruction all throughout the region. There are 21 towers in this condition, as shown in the picture. These are major towers of power, of electrical grid that have been destroyed all across my State of Kansas, more especially in the western part.
As a result, 15-foot snowdrifts closed highways and left over 60,000 customers without power. Over 10,000 downed utility poles litter the area. We did not get that picture blown up in time, but it is a marvelous picture of a road--you can see the snow here--that goes by with a whole bunch of telephone poles snapped off like matchsticks. And that has happened all throughout that area. Residents who are lucky enough to have generators are now paying up to $50 a day for diesel fuel to simply generate electricity to stay warm, to exist.
What is more, the storm hit one of the largest concentrations of livestock in the State. Let me put up a chart that is going to be a little difficult to discern from the standpoint of what it portrays. For reasons you can understand when you look at this image, we have received numerous reports of animals like this calf--yes, this is a calf. You can see the calf's nose, and one eye here and one eye here. We do not know whether the calf made it, in that our producers are working overtime, our ranchers are working overtime to get food to their livestock herds. But in this particular instance, you can see what happens to an animal that is caught in these kinds of conditions--a rather sad scene, to say the least. Either they succumb to a lack of food or a lack of water or they suffer extreme weight loss.
Madam President, what happens, as you well know, coming from the State you represent, is that you will have a thaw, but the thaw will only involve a couple of inches, and it turns to ice, and then below that mud. So if you have any livestock there, they are stuck. You could even put a bale of hay right next to them and they could not eat it.
So many economic livelihoods are in danger if Kansas farmers are unable to reach their herds of cattle or keep them fed. I take great pride in reporting that all across our State our producers are doing the very best they can under very difficult circumstances.
In light of the overwhelming destruction this storm has thrust on our State, 44 counties were immediately declared states of disaster . This comes as no surprise to those of us who have seen the damage this storm has caused or those of us who have gone through previous storms. I remember the one in 1973, which caused great damage, and we had to use Air Force planes with bales of hay to keep the livestock herds, at least to the extent they could be, from dying. However, what comes as a surprise to myself and many others is that FEMA has been unable to fully respond to our vital requests for assistance.
Last night, the President issued a major disaster declaration for Kansas, allowing the State access to two--two--of the seven--that is important: Two of the seven--major types of public assistance. However, he agreed with me, when I showed the President these images of our State a moment ago at the White House that the damage in the western part of our State goes far beyond something called 'debris removal' and 'emergency protective services.'
Furthermore, we have been told that debris removal does not cover the removal of snow. Now, wait a minute. If you are in western Kansas or you are out on the high plains and you have 30 inches of snow and 15-foot snowdrifts but you cannot remove the snow because it cannot be categorized as debris, how on Earth can you reach the debris that is underneath the snow? That seems to be a quandary or a question that is rather ridiculous under the circumstances.
While I understand that Federal officials must confirm a record or near-record amount of snow in order to expend Federal funds--I understand that--30 inches of snow certainly covers any other debris one could hope to clear, including the 15-foot drifts.
The bottom line is that the State of Kansas needs its Federal Government to assist in restoring power and clearing massive amounts of snow. And they need this assistance immediately--not next week, next month, or next year.
I have been told that meetings this week will determine whether Kansas qualifies for the remaining categories of public assistance. You remember that picture of the transformer, which I will put back up--and I will cover the picture of this poor calf--these are the kinds of things where we have to have public assistance; otherwise, you have local, small generators and people paying $50 a day for diesel fuel just to keep warm. That is the kind of category of public assistance--I am not going to list all of them--we desperately need.
I can only ask on behalf of Kansans, who will have been stuck in the snow for 2 weeks by the time these meetings occur, that these decisions be made sooner rather than later. I have been informed just this morning by our FEMA Director, Mr. David Paulison--who wants to be of all possible help--that much work remains to be done between the State and also our regional FEMA officials.
I understand that. There are a lot of regulations. There are a lot of things Congress itself has put into the regulations in regard to FEMA help or State officials, that they must work through this. But the 850 people in Sharon
Springs, Kansas, cannot afford to clear the 15-foot snowdrifts that are currently covering six blocks of Main Street. Their county of 1,500 people could not have known to budget for the 600 truckloads of snow they estimate it will take to clear just their Main Street, just that area. They estimate it would take that to do the job. They need their Federal Government's help, and they need their State and also regional FEMA help to expedite this process, which I understand is going to take place on Wednesday. Why it cannot take place before that I am not sure. And why the Weather Service cannot at least discern this was a major snow--a major snow of 30 inches and 15-foot drifts--is a little bit beyond me. We will keep working on that.
As each day passes that FEMA is not able to issue the remaining categories of assistance--I am not blaming FEMA. I know there is a process. I am not blaming the State. I know there is a process. But the people of Saint Francis and the people of many other communities--county seat communities, noncounty seat communities, very small communities--need the assistance now.
I hope FEMA and our Government do not give the impression that it is entirely focused solely on large urban and suburban communities, or natural disasters that make the headlines, make the headlines, and make the headlines. Obviously, I am talking about hurricanes, I am talking about mudslides, I am talking about forest fires, I am talking about major disasters where FEMA does the best job they possibly can. We have come through a lot in the past sessions of Congress.
So I am asking our State officials and our FEMA folks here in Washington and also on a regional level to prove this is not the case by quickly providing all available Federal resources to support this effort in our heartland. And again, let's do it this week. Let's not wait until next week and the week after and a month after.