City administrators met criticism Thursday from a handful of frustrated Miami residents who are now in their fifth day without electrical service.
Approximately six residents, most form the city's northwest quadrant, attended a press conference held Thursday as city officials went on the air for the first time since a Dec. 8 ice storm dropped approximately an inch of ice in and around Miami.
City Manager Michael Spurgeon and city engineer Jerry Ruse reiterated the approach of power restoration - to restore power to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
The problem therein, officials said, is that small isolated pockets of residents are forced to wait as restoration efforts are focused on areas where the most number of people can benefit.
“This is one of, if not the worst, disasters to hit this area,” Spurgeon said as he expained the widespread outages that put more than a half-million people statewide out of elecricity this week. “Unfortunately, as power is restored for some, others have to wait. I don't like telling you that, but that is the reality of this situation.”
The residents vented their frustrations and questioned the city's preparedness.
“I am cold, my family is cold and my pets are dying,” one man said from the floor.
None of those attending Thursday's conference indicated that they were utilizing the Red Cross shelter in Miami or using the Ottawa County Animal Welfare Society's animal shelter which is housing pets for residents of the Red Cross shelter.
Oklahoma Emergency Management announced today that an estimated 331,000 Oklahoma residents are still without power.
In Miami, 15 percent (800 to 1,000) of Miami utility customers are experiencing outages attributed to a number of factors, including broken utility poles, downed lines, trees and brush on lines and blown transformers, according to Ruse.
An additional number of residents are without power due to service line damage on the residential side that requires the work of a licnesed electrician.
Crews are currently working an estimated 18 hours a day, resting at night.
Miami Mayor Brent Brassfield said Thursday that utility crews contracted out of Texas are reporting that damage from the Dec. 8 ice storm, though not as widespread, is greater than what they saw after Hurricane Katrina.
“Our community suffered tremendous damage,” Brassfield said.
Tree trimming crews have been contracted to work ahead of the utility crews to clear debris from lines.
All crews have been retained through Sunday and will possibly be utilized longer if the weekend brings more snow than is anticipated.
Brassfield said “It is difficult to stand hear and ask you to be patient … Just like there was not an instruction book that came with 14 feet of floodwater, there isn't one that comes with this ice storm.”
The city does have a disaster preparedness plan, which it is following, according to Spurgeon. However, the plan has no reference point drawn for an ice storm of the current magnitude.
“From this disaster, the city will have after-action meetings and talk about how it can better serve its customers if an event like this happens again,” Spurgeon said.
The city did the same thing after the July 3 flood.
A second press conference is slated for 4 p.m. today and will be televised and repeated for those who have cable service.