Letter: Emergency Operations in the City of South Lake Tahoe
The past four months are not soon to be forgotten. After having seen the City roads come to a standstill during the Caldor fire evacuation, our City responded to a very predictable overload of cars due to the I-80 Closure and Highway 50 reopening by doing exactly what? Are we to continue to understand that the City of South Lake Tahoe has no control of the roads through our City and no means of contacting those who do have control of our roads when the town if overun?
First the good news: Our City Plows have been working diligently and largely successfully in opening roads when they can get to them. Our Police and Fire have responded consistently and professionally to emergencies where they are able to get to them. Volunteers have stepped up to offer Search and Rescue assistance to those trapped in their cars, including families with children who were found with no food, water or fuel for their cars.Now the obvious questions: At what point do the needs of the people who live here trump the desire to service tourists? Must we wait until the roads are beyond capacity? Must we wait until the gas stations are all empty? Must we wait until the stores have no food? Must we wait until our yards are caked in the detritus left by people trapped in their cars and blocking our ability to get to town for work or supplies to get through these storms?We are told an Operations Center was opened to coordinate efforts… congratulations, you did your job, please don’t expect bonus points for doing the minimum required. You will not be surprised to know that we the citizens of South Lake Tahoe should reasonably expect more than coordinated actions. We should expect actual results from your coordination including: Acknowledgment that essential services such as food delivery and gas delivery has been accommodated. Prioritization of Emergency services access and the ability of residents to get to the store or gas station to resupply. These things should take precedence over the ability of people to drive through our town to get wherever the hell they are going.
This is the second emergency situation in our town this year where tourist access was maintained when it should have been shut down. This is the second time we have been told an Operations Center has been opened and yet the tourists continue to flow into a town with impassable roads, diminishing fuel supplies and empty store shelves. The City of South Lake Tahoe MUST establish policies and procedures for shutting down access to non-residents when emergencies arise and prioritizing access for essential services such as gas deliveries and the stocking of stores. The ability of residents to get to those supplies and be able to return home in less than a full day’s time also needs to be addressed.
It is past time the City do what is required to address these issues and stop making excuses. It may not be your jurisdiction but it is your responsibility to find solutions. We shouldn’t need to wait for the Governor of another State to come to our rescue.
Resident, City of South Lake Tahoe
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This past year has been a rollercoaster for the Lake Tahoe region. As the coronavirus pandemic dragged on, undeterred visitors continued to flock to the area.