AL: Locals Plan To Cover The Ice Debacle

State and local emergency officials said they are looking into plans to provide ice following a hurricane after federal officials said earlier this year that they would no longer supply it.

FEMA head R. David Paulison surprised many coastal leaders when he announced in April that the agency would only distribute ice for medical emergencies or life-threatening situations.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has traditionally provided ice to disaster victims, particularly in areas with power outages.

FEMA should reconsider, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said in a Friday letter to Paulison. The agency’s new policy of leaving the job to state and local governments “would add layers of complexity, bureaucracy and delay to what should be a simple and straightforward task,” Taylor wrote.

Alabama leaders are now two weeks into hurricane season and are not sure how people would keep cool if a storm knocked out power.

After Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina wiped out power lines in south Alabama, residents waited for hours at distribution points to pick up ice along with water and ready-to-eat meals.

“Some people making these decisions have clearly never been in south Alabama on a summer day,” said Leigh Ann Ryals, the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency director.

Ice isn’t just needed for comfort, said Walt Dickerson, Mobile County’s emergency director.

Some medications need to be kept cold, he said. And unlike food and water, residents can’t save up enough ice to last through more than a few days without power.

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