Okay, class, listen up. Today’s lesson is about a place called the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center—so called because it originally was constructed as a weather station..
For the sake of simplicity (and because I’m too lazy to write it out every time) we will hereafter refer to it as M-WEOC.
If you are of my generation and you read the book or saw the 1964 movie Fail Safe, featuring Henry Fonda, Larry Hagman, Walter Matthau and Dom Deluise, among others, it was called Mount Thunder, but the reference was obvious.
M-WEOC is a civilian command facility located in Virginia and is a major relocation site (read: a place to run and hide) for high-level (not you and me, noooo) civilian and military officials in the event of a national disaster so there may be a continuity of government. (Some—any—continuity of government would be pretty nice right now.)
The underground component—the bunker—contains 600,000 square feet. Following the 9-11 attacks, most of the congressional leadership (read: cowards) was evacuated to Mount Weather by helicopter. Being elected Speaker of the House does carry certain privileges.
The National Gallery of Art from 1979 to 1981 developed a plan to transport valuable paintings in its collection to Mount Weather via helicopter. (Are you kidding me?). While I approve of the arts, there are a lot of things I would be trying to save before some painting of a limp pocket watch or a Campbell soup can or something painted by a guy with only one ear. Apparently those high-level civilian and military functionaries plan to sell the artworks when they emerge from the underground bunker at M-WEOC—if there’s anyone left to sell them to.
Would you like to hear who else is included among the A-list to be evacuated to M-WEOC?
FEMA. That’s right, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the same people who brought you those splendid recovery efforts for Katrina and more recently the devastating floods of Southeast Louisiana.
M-WEOC, it seems serves as FEMA’s center of operations.
If an enemy ever attacked this country, FEMA, with its unprecedented record of ineptitude, might be spared just so it could finish off what the bombing missed. Given its performance record, that scenario may be closer to the truth than we would like to believe.
A friend and regular reader of LouisianaVoice observed somewhat caustically, “If we have a nuclear attack or other disaster that takes most of the rest of us out. High-ranking FEMA officials will be among those saved. What a waste.”
The Baton Rouge Advocate’s REBEKAH ALLEN wrote on Tuesday (Dec. 12): “For the amount of money FEMA is spending on temporary mobile homes for flood victims, the federal agency could buy displaced residents modest houses in some parts of Baton Rouge.”
The basis on which she wrote that was a document provided to U.S. Rep. Garrett Graves which revealed that FEMA’s typical cost for the purchase, transport and installation of each FEMA trailer placed on the property of a flood victim is a cool $129,200.
If the “manufactured housing unit” (a FEMA euphemism for trailer but hey, a rose by any other name…) is placed in an existing commercial mobile home or travel trailer park, the cost of leasing the site pad increases the tab to $149,000 and if placed in FEMA designated group sites, then the price jumps to $170,000.
That’s for a living space of a whopping 980 square feet. My 2,300-square-foot home cost me less than $129 thou.
(And John Kennedy thinks the state has a spending problem.)
“You’re saying, ‘We may be slow, but at least we’re more expensive,’” Graves said.
Here’s the breakdown, according to Allen:
- Cost of FEMA trailer: $62,500;
- Installation: $23,000;
- Maintenance: $15,400
- Transportation: $5,000
- FEMA’s administrative overhead cost: $23,000.
Tito Hernandez, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer (how’s that for a snappy title?), had a well-reasoned, logical explanation.
Of course he did.
The FEMA trailers meet strict safety standards set by the federal government.
Well, Tito, every doublewide mobile home sold on every commercial lot in America meets “strict safety standards” set by the federal government. “The FEMA unit is strong, it’s a higher quality, it’s more solid than many being sold commercially,” he said.
Sure they are, Tito. And we still remember those pieces of crap foisted off onto those wretched Katrina victims. Weren’t we also told then what a great deal those were?
Borrowing the mantra of former Wisconsin Democratic Sen. William Proxmire, Graves calls the money spent on the trailers the “fleecing of America, example no. 10,000.”
That same friend/reader that I alluded to earlier experienced his own FEMA nightmare when his 33-year-old rental trailer flooded in Central:
“We had little choice but to get a new one at 100 percent our expense or walk away from the property entirely. Why didn’t we have flood insurance you might well ask? Even if we had, we would have gotten nothing because a 33-year-old trailer has no value. We replaced this old trailer with a brand-new, but smaller one (1,000 sf living area) – ordered it a week after the flood and it still is not ready for occupancy since we still don’t have it plumbed so there is no water.
“Everything about this has been a nightmare from permitting through trying to get people over there to do site prep, electrical, etc. We are very lucky to have finally convinced the City of Central to give us a “temp to perm” electrical connection so the air conditioning could be installed last Thursday. I could go on and on and on, but to get to the cost:
“I had a slab poured, lot work done, including demolition of the old trailer, paid extra to have the new trailer elevated to 2 feet above the basic flood elevation, paid and engineer to do two flood elevation certificates during the permitting, have done extra work on the trailer, including adding two porches at a cost of $7,000 and doing other extras like fence repairs, putting in blinds, buying new hardware for the washer/dryer, etc. I project with all this, my total cost will be about $62,000.
“This whole FEMA thing is utterly and completely stupid. With all the extras I did that FEMA isn’t even doing, it cost me less than half what they paid for doing a piss-poor job of installing some trailers. And what are they going to do with them when they get them back in 18 months? FEMA is another of the many fine reasons people have absolutely no faith their government can do anything right. Everybody would have been a lot better off if FEMA had simply given them $129,000 and, based on the total costs, it would have probably cost taxpayers less and would certainly have been less hassle for everybody. Don’t you think somebody could rent a pretty nice place for $7,166.67 per month for the 18 months they are allegedly loaning people the ridiculous trailers for? I am disgusted and angry about this whole thing. I don’t know what the answer is at FEMA, but some ass-chewing and firing might help.”
But not to worry. When the next national disaster hits, our critical congressmen, generals and FEMA will be safely ensconced in that underground bunker at M-WEOC (with sufficient food and drink) while the rest of us kick into survival mode.
We can only hope FEMA has a better contingency plan for that disaster than it does for hurricanes and floods.