Saturday, 7 February 2009
When an avalanche damaged a major electrical power line near Juneau, Alaska, on April 16 2008, life abruptly changed for the town's 30,000 inhabitants. The line had carried inexpensive hydroelectric power that supplied 85 percent of the Alaskan state capital's electricity needs.
Heavy snow knocked out a substantial section of the primary power line to Juneau on April 16, record snowfalls buried Juneau on the morning of April 17 and the record cold temperatures of April 18 would have prompted Juneau residents to jack up their thermostats. On April 17 Juneau city government declared the loss of its hydroelectricity a disaster, then asked the state for aid.
Do these dates ring a bell? Where was the Governor while Juneau faced a major crisis? Oh yes, she was in Texas delivering a speech, leaking amniotic fluid, followed by a wild ride from Dallas to Palmer, followed by the birth of baby Trig on April 18.
Ok, so she was a tad busy, but where was lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell? Who knows, he's never been allowed to do anything when the Governor is indisposed or away from her office for long periods, like say, running around the country on a campaign for the vice presidency?
The events that followed have an interesting familiarity and will remind many of a more recent crisis.
Between April 17 and May 2 this is what happened: Juneau's legislative delegation sent a letter to Governor Palin supporting a state disaster declaration and asked her office to hire an expert to assist with Juneau's response. On April 22 Palin announced that multiple state agencies were working with the power company to assess the damage and develop a plan to recover power to Juneau. April 23: Governor's disaster policy cabinet met to discuss Juneau's situation and discuss declaring a state disaster and on April 30 recommended to Palin that she not approve the declaration. May 2: announcement that Governor Sarah Palin had rejected a request from the city of Juneau to issue a disaster declaration in response to the city's power crisis.
The Governor was distracted with her own personal crisis, which made the headlines in all the major Alaska newspapers for days on end. From the Governor's point of view, this seemed a good time to bury bad news. The joyous event and all the drama about Trig having Down's Syndrome effectively buried Juneau under more than just the avalanche.
This story mirrors the Governor's response to the Emmonak crisis nine months after Juneau. Hey, nine months! She could have had another baby! Oh, she had already done that one, let's have a bit of originality.
But seriously, the sad reality is, some things never change...
(Photo: Mike Laudert / Alaska Electric Light & Power Co.)