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Bureaucracy stuck in a loop

Modern technology is a wonderful thing, but sometimes you just need to unplug. I got a chance to do that for a few days last week and it was fantastic … until it was time to return to reality.

I had intentionally avoided reading the news, checking emails or texts — I didn’t want to worry about much more than how far I needed to hike to burn off the toasted marshmallows I had consumed the evening before.

But when the time came to get on the road and come home, I plugged in my smartphone and asked the maps feature to send me back through the mountains the way I had come. It was a bit of a shock to both me and the female voice delivering directions from my phone that U.S. 50 was closed somewhere west of Gormania, Md.

After the 19th time she demanded I “proceed to the route” while I tried to figure out how to get out of there, I turned off the app. I guess I had gotten myself so far away from signal that it was unable to do any rerouting. It’s a bit unnerving to realize how dependent you have become on technology like that.

I made my way to a detour sign and eventually drove into a town that had enough of a business district that I stopped and got ice cream to help me regroup. (Driving back from vacation is still vacation.)

That’s where I learned the extent of damage from flash flooding that hit not only U.S. 50, but another road I had been considering taking on my way back, U.S. 33. I would have had to backtrack that way, too.

Another devastating summer flash flood in the West Virginia mountains — this time in counties that made me hope the damage was not as bad as what occurred in 1985. (It wasn’t, thank goodness).

After a very helpful HUMAN helped me figure out how to get back on track and headed home again, I had time to wonder how long anyone affected by the most recent flooding might have to wait until they get the help they need to put things back to normal. Some of those hit in 2016 are still waiting. That is a crime — maybe literally.

King Bureaucracy and the politicians who enable it also appear incapable of doing anything but “proceed to the route” in taking the road they have taken for generations in the Mountain State. It leads to the intersection of fraud and incompetence, while West Virginians — taxpayers and voters — get lost.

The federal government has noticed, though I’m guessing there’s a fat lot of good that will do. And now the process is starting all over, while there has been flooding since 2016 from which there has also been no full recovery.

We live in a beautiful, WILD state. We have known for as long as humans have inhabited this land that nature is not always kind to us here. And yet each time she strikes, the folks in Charleston reveal themselves to be not just unprepared, but reluctant to simply deliver the help that is needed by their own constituents.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this time will be different. After all, an election year is fast-approaching; and the two routes I mentioned don’t just bring people like me back home — they bring travelers from out of state into some of our most enticing tourist spots. Leaving those regions to their own devices is going to attract a bit more attention than some others. It would be nice to believe that, should that happen again, it will be the folks in charge, rather than the victims of the disaster, who suffer the consequences.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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