Attacks Lead States to Take Precautionary Measures
By John Nagy, Staff Writer
Formal emergency and disaster declarations, mobilizing the cash, equipment and manpower necessary to respond to the damage and address potential further security threats, have been promulgated in at least seven states.
In New York and Virginia, where hundreds are confirmed dead and thousands more are unaccounted for after hijacked passenger planes leveled both towers of Manhattan's World Trade Center and ripped through the Pentagon, Govs. George Pataki and Jim Gilmore activated National Guard units and urban search and rescue squads to help local teams battle fires, provide medical care and maintain lines of communication.
Pataki's office reported Wednesday more than 3,000 National Guard troops already working in the city or ready for deployment nearby. Another 2,000 await assignment upstate. Virginia deployed 600 Guardsmen to assist response efforts at the Pentagon, which stands across the Potomac from the Nation's Capital in the state's busy northern suburbs.
In Pennsylvania, where a fourth passenger jet crashed in an open field 85 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Gov. Tom Ridge signed a disaster proclamation for Somerset County, releasing up to $1 million in emergency aid for response efforts.
John Thomasian, director of the National Governors' Association's Center for Best Practices said that most states report tighter security measures at public buildings while maintaining or resuming standard business hours in an "aggressive return to normal conditions."
Governors in Arizona, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and other states either activated Guard units and state emergency operations centers or put them on alert without going to the length of declaring an official state of emergency.
Florida and Montana, where governors ordered emergency preparations Tuesday under the perceived threat of additional attacks, still retained emergency orders Thursday afternoon. However, an emergency order issued by Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening after Tuesday's attacks was lifted at 2 PM Eastern Time Thursday.
A spokeswoman for Florida's Department of Emergency Management said officials have their attention divided between developments in New York and Virginia and the movement of Tropical Storm Gabrielle, which hovered roughly 225 miles west-southwest of Naples in the Gulf of Mexico with 45 mile-per-hour winds Thursday afternoon.
While Montana's neighbors limited their response to "reasonable security precautions" at state capitol complexes and other government buildings, Gov. Judy Martz declared a state of emergency Tuesday in part because of concerns over the safety of federal and state emergency management officials meeting in Big Sky, acting press secretary Mike Foster said.
Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA ) spokesman Mark Wolfson said that "almost all" state emergency management directors and most of the senior FEMA staff were in Montana for a summer meeting scheduled to last through Wednesday.
FEMA director Joseph Allbaugh and officials in several states directly involved in the attacks were flown home Tuesday in military aircraft, Montana Emergency Management Agency director and meeting host Jim Green said.
Green said he set up an impromptu emergency response center to help the remaining state officials return to their posts.
Wolfson said FEMA officials do not know whether the attack was timed to catch emergency officials off guard. "That would be speculation. But it is something that law enforcement investigators might be looking at," he said.
Outraged by reports of price gouging at independent gas retailers in his state, Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove also declared a state of emergency Tuesday in an effort to stabilize prices and stamp out abuses. Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman issued a similar declaration Wednesday.
Reports of gasoline price gouging surfaced throughout the country, with prices purportedly leaping as high as $6 per gallon in Ohio. Texas officials issued a limited disaster declaration in order to probe price gouging allegations. But NGA's Thomasian said that many states do not need to take such measures to address the problem.
"It looks to us like this problem went away quickly," he said.
Elsewhere, as state leaders call for calm and healing amid round-the-clock updates on conditions in New York and Washington, state governments are turning away parcel deliveries, locking superfluous entrances to government buildings and implementing more rigorous security checks while attempting to return to "business as usual."