Recovery: Justice, others must learn from past mistakes

As many Mid-Ohio Valley residents remain glued to storm trackers showing Hurricane Florence may hook its way north –heading straight for us — by the wee small hours of Tuesday morning — the entire Mountain State is bracing for days of rain that could result in another round of flooding. In fact, Gov. Jim Justice’s office announced this week the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management activated its emergency operations center; and all agencies are to be in a “state of preparedness.”

With the 50 National Guard members ready to assist in locations across the state and 70 tractor-trailer loads of supplies already at the Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, it would appear the effort is off to a good start.

But a little more than two years ago, storms blew through large portions of the state leaving 23 dead and thousands of homes and businesses destroyed. Mind-bogglingly, there are STILL families awaiting the rebuilding assistance promised by the state in the aftermath.

Justice has still not replaced the folks who were forced out of state government as a result of that debacle.

He and his department heads would do well to sit down and draw up a plan that goes beyond the immediate recovery effort. Their state of preparedness should include a determination to avoid the mistakes that left so many West Virginians struggling for years after that 2016 storm (not to mention those hit hard by storms the following summer).

West Virginia is planning, according to Justice, to be a safe haven for those fleeing Florence’s assault on the East Coast. State Parks are offering deep discounts and the State Fair of West Virginia is offering temporary shelter for evacuated horses.

“We want to make sure that those needing to evacuate will have an affordable place to stay,” said Justice.

That is fantastic, and necessary. Surely many residents of Virginia and the Carolinas will be grateful.

When they leave, there will likely be plenty of Mountain State residents in need of long-term assistance. We had better be ready to make sure they get it.