How to get FEMA's melting ice

September 26, 2008 7:32:42 PM PDT
Calls and emails have been coming in about a story we first told you about Thursday. ROAD TO RECOVERY: How you can help | School closings | Person locator | Important phone numbers | Assistance from FEMA | Filing a claim | Latest power numbers

We reported truckloads of FEMA ice was melting. Our question, why was the ice going to waste when so many people are in need?

It's costing taxpayers thousands of dollars. Not to mention, wasting truck loads of ice that was meant for Hurricane Ike victims.

We know that so far:

- FEMA has melted at least 50 truckloads of ice. - And at a cost of nearly $10,000 per truck that equates to close to a half million dollars of your money.

We've spent the day trying to find out how to get the ice overflow to the people who need it, but that is a slippery proposition.

"There's a very great need," said Louisa Kyles with the Evangelst Temple Church of Christ. "All in front of us lights are still out. All behind us lights are still out."

Louisa Kyles set up a point of distribution (POD) off MLK three days ago.

The city of Houston and Harris County don't have any official points of distribution anymore but there is obviously still a need for food water and most of all ice. Especially given that so many people are still without power.

How big a deal is ice right now?

"Very big because we still don't have any electricity at all, none whatsoever," said storm victim Martha Harris.

The trucks came from FEMA but hundreds more full of ice are going unused. We know that hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ice is being sent to melt in San Antonio.

"It's a lot cheaper to store the ice than to store it in refrigerated locations," said Marty Bahamondes with FEMA.

So how can you contact FEMA to get the ice before it melts?

On Thursday FEMA told us the number to call to get the ice was either the statewide 211 hotline or 311 in the city of Houston.

That information was wrong.

Friday morning FEMA told me the responsibility lies with Houston and Harris County Emergency Operations. Emergency operations told me to call the state which did not immediately have an answer. Then the county judge's office told me the responsibility for ice distribution lies squarely with FEMA. FEMA says it takes direction from the city, the county, and the state-not the other way around.

"We're not asking people to directly contact FEMA because we base all of our requirements from the needs that come to us from local and state officials," Bahamondes said.

But late Friday, Harris County sent us this statement:

"FEMA has consistently declined to clarify to us or to the public how private pods in the unincorporated parts of the county are to be supplied, what telephone numbers can be used to request those supplies or what actions FEMA is taking in regards to the maintenance or destruction of its commodity supplies at Reliant."

Which means communication seems to be frozen while more ice melts away.

"Who suffers from that miscommunication," asked Kyles. "The people, the people suffer."

We do have a number you can call for ice, food, and water if you a running an approved pod or senior living facility in the city of Houston.

It is 713-884-4400. There is no number for individuals.

And there is no number for unincorporated Harris County. We should tell you that FEMA is donating what it can to food pantries and the unused food and water will go back into storage.

And if you have a medical emergency and need a delivery of ice, food, and water - you can call 311 in the city of Houston. But that is only for emergencies and homebound individuals.

Keep your family safe this hurricane season. Check our complete tropical weather preparation guide


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