Last week, the National Weather Service sent out bulletins to Eastern Sierra law enforcement and many others that said the arrival of extremely heavy snow and 60 mph winds would make any travel nearly impossible and life threatening. With that clear public safety warning, officers put out the word. Since then, they’ve been getting complaining words back in their faces from business owners.
Most admit weather remains an inexact science, but experts around the nation insisted that we were in for a very bad time. Local officials made it a point to organize a large meeting of all local agencies, including the Ski Area. They talked about what to do and how to do it.
Mono Sheriff Rick Scholl said, “When we get notices like that, we have to put out the word and our Code Red message.” Sheriff Scholl said today that he is absolutely confident if the same scenario came up again, he would respond in the same way.
Kathy Cage, Mammoth business owner and former Town Council member, called to vent over what she felt were unnecessary alarums. Cage pointed to clear streets, a pleasant snow storm and an empty town. “Everyone bailed,” she said. Cage pointed to the Code Red phone messages that the Mono Sheriff’s office sent out to thousands of local phones. The message warned of a big storm and the need to stock up on supplies.
Cage said her husband’s gas station ran out of gas and Vons ran out of food. Couldn’t officials have delivered a better message in a better way?
Another former Council member, business owner Tony Barrett, called the phone calls and warnings alarmist. He believes they sent visitors “high-tailing it in a panic to get out of town.” Barrett said that the “over-reaction and lack of thought on the part of town government “killed business for restaurants, retail, real estate and other commercial concerns.” Barrett said if tourists were stuck in town with storms, that would help business. He said, “The town’s alarmist position was STUPID.”
The Mammoth Chamber of Commerce sent out an email asking business owners to speak up about “harsh warnings of impending doom.” Mammoth Mayor Skip Harvey said the public will have a chance to talk about this at a future Town Council meeting. Mayor Harvey also said he stands behind what the Town did, 100%. Harvey said this was one of the rare times the town did not get hit worse than storm predictions.
“How do people want our tourists to end their vacations? Asked Harvey. “Should they leave a day early or spend a night on a cot in the gym?” Harvey asked if this is tourist warfare? Are there casualties we should accept?
Mammoth Police Chief Randy Schienle said he believes what was done needed to be done. He said we should look at New Orleans where government officials had weather information in advance of Katrina and did virtually nothing. Schienle stands behind government decisions.
Sheriff Scholl said that all Mono and Mammoth officials are well aware of the importance of tourism. Scholl said his number one duty as emergency services coordinator is public safety. “This is more of a concern than business inconvenience for 2 days,” he said.