Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Schwarzenegger manages a disaster
We met up with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Lake Arrowhead middle school parking lot. We've been allowed to shadow the governor for the next few hours as he manages the state's response to the wildfires.

First stop is a back office in the middle school, where the governor gets on the phone to Washington, talking to President Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The governor says he urgued the president to come see the devastation for himself.

We ride in a motorcade to a nearby hospital where a Blackhawk helicopter is waiting to take the governor on a tour of the devastation from the air.

Looking down from the helicopter it's amazing to see the size of the fire burning in the Lake Arrowhead region where more than 400 homes have been destroyed.

As we fly away from Lake Arrowhead and make our way to San Diego, Schwarzenegger, seated in the back on the pilot side, points out the window at three other fires burning in the distance. The governor who's working on three hours of sleep eats a few chips as he gazes at the smoke-filled skies and fires below.

"I have to be out here to manage this to make sure everything is being done," the governor says.

When we land in San Diego, the governor is told that the secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff is landing in 10 minutes, so the decision is made to wait to take him on a tour of the San Diego area and Qualcomm Stadium. When Chertoff arrives, he does a quick interview with us, saying the hard lessons learned during Katrina are helping manage the federal response.

After a short fly around, Schwarzenegger and Chertoff land at Qualcomm Stadium where they talk to volunteers and evacuees. The governor tells us he wants to make sure problems that come up are dealt with immediately. "We need to make sure everyone has what they need, things like enough baby formula and diapers."

A disaster of this magnitude can define a political career. Schwarzenegger seems determined to make sure he does everything possible to avoid any mistakes.

-- By Ted Rowlands, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 4:00 PM ET
  31 Comments
I'd like to thank Governor Schwarzenegger. He is always present when he is needed and many times the big media never reports that. Thanks Governor.
A big thank you to all the firefighters, police, military, volunteers and yes, even the media for their coverage. It's a big world and we're really all in it together. Take Care
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 4:38 PM ET
I am sad for the people who have lost homes and had to flee. I do, however, compare it to the victims of Katrina and there is no comparision regarding the conditions, torment and hopelessness of there situation. The repsonse to their disaster was days coming not hours. Even today many are still struggling.
Posted By Anonymous : 4:47 PM ET
An open letter to those evacuated and still waiting for the winds.

I've been there -- the entire family crammed into a small, two room hotel suite; CNN on one television; MSNBC on another; and Fox News on the laptop. The spare laptop is reserved for checking email.

You wait. You think knowledge is everything -- so and so snuck back in -- so and so saw this and that - you may even get the knowledge that your house is gone or that it still stands. You can't get enough.

Well, in my humble experience -- you can. Walk away from the hotel room. Go shopping; go to a movie; rent a movie -- rent four. Stop watching the news -- it won't change whether your house is still there. It won't take the natural disaster away.

Give yourself downtime. And then, focus on the rebuilding. recognize that rebuilding will be SLOW -- many of you will need architects/contractors/furniture -- more than your infrastructure is designed to support. It will not be six months and "at 'em," despite what your government promises you.

But it will happen. Two years past Katrina, I'm finally in my house again. I feel for you all. Everyday.
--AMY new orleans
Posted By Amy : 5:47 PM ET
I hope that he (and the rest of the government) are serious about learning lessons from the response (or lacktherof) to Katrina. I hope that our state doesn't strand people in need, and that the Govenor holds himself accountable and responsible for making sure the right things happen.
Posted By Caroline Neal, Los Angeles : 5:49 PM ET
Goooo Arnold! "Gutes Gluck!" I am a big supporter of Arnold. His personal success story is a role model of immigration, barriers, and success through dedicated hard work and persistence.

He's been a solid leader as an elected official. And he's not a "career politician" like the other loser-abuser politicians. He speaks his mind and no BS. Arnold is great. We are lucky to have as our "Gov." :-)
Posted By Mark, Sacramento, CA : 6:39 PM ET
This is what courage, dedication, teamwork, and kindness can all do together. A strong willed Governor also helps, but a Governor cannot do anything if people are not willing to help themselves and others around them.

People took action before the government even stepped in. This is what should've happened in New Orleans.
Posted By Daniel Grape, Pittsburgh, PA : 6:51 PM ET
I wish for once when they find an arsonist that they start the person on fire and put it on prime time TV. People work their entire lives and have everything wiped out by some stupid person that wants to get their rocks off by starting a fire.

You may think my solution is harsh, but you need a real punishment to stop these crimes. People will think twice if they know they will be burned up in a fire for their crime.
Posted By Anonymous : 6:58 PM ET
It sounds as though Governor Schwarzenegger has the best intentions here. Two years ago-Gov. Blanco was too proud or too dense to take the little (next to nothing) help that was offered and Mayor Nagin was turning away trains that would have helped a lot of people in NOLA. It wasn't just the Federal gov't that screwed that one up-all levels failed in Katrina. Thank God California has it together. If Blanco and Nagin were in authority in California-well, I can't even imagine it.
Posted By Debbie, Denham Springs, LA : 7:03 PM ET
For any burn victims under 18 years old, I highly recommend the Shriners Hospital in Northern California - they are specialists in pediatric burn care. Please pass this on to your viewers - www.shrinershospitals.org. The care is offered at no cost with space for a parent to stay and the best care possible.
Posted By Anonymous : 7:22 PM ET
It is so true that the parallel between the California fires and Katrina are best compared by looking at leadership.

Gov Kathleen Blanco - DEMOCRAT (didn't take charge, pointed fingers)

Mayor of the Chocolate City - DEMOCRAT (didn't take charge, cried out for "federal action")

New Orleans Council Mem - DEMOCRATS (obviously corrupt, ineffective)

California led by thoughtful , quick thinking Republicans who are taking care of their people WITHOUT the help of the Federal Government ! Thank you Arnold Schwarzannager.
Posted By ronnie - knoxville , tn : 7:34 PM ET
Gov Schwarz. is really handling this horrific situation like a pro. The response has been magnificently coordinated and brave people from the Gov. on down are doing their duty. Thank God for all the heroes who in the most arduous conditions, are saving others' lives.
Posted By courtney j. encino, ca. : 7:38 PM ET
Let's change the rule about non-natural born people in the White House.


AH- NOLD for President !
Posted By frank mccabe, denver, co. : 7:40 PM ET
The Governor is actually working with the DHS, emergency workers, and fire depts. to act , not just analyze. Thanks, Arnold !
Posted By April B. -- San Diego, CA : 7:42 PM ET
Im glad Arnold is on the job. Although we really need Anderson's perspective more in depth. Why hasn't Anderson blogged ?
Posted By Kelly , San Francisco, Ca. : 7:53 PM ET
Ted, your comment that "the Gov. is working on three hours of sleep " made me think, what a difference. I don't think Blanco and Nagin lost any sleep over Hurricane Katrina until their jobs came on the line at re-election time.
Posted By Nancy , Boca Raton, FL : 7:55 PM ET
The one thing that makes me say HHHHMMMMMMM, WHAT'S up? My thoughts and pray's go out to the people of California and Mexico, that have to go through such horror. I could not imagine. What needs to be answered is, where was the support when the last act of nature occured.(Katrina) Not much progress has been made to the people of the South East. And such prompt measures have been taken to help the people out west. My question is simple, what was the difference? WHY?
Thanks Donny
Posted By Donny, Cambridge Ontario Canada : 8:01 PM ET
I am a resident of Rancho Bernardo in San Diego, Ca. I was allowed to return home today. I was one of the lucky ones. My house & entire neighborhood is fine. I don't see how we can be comopared to Katrina. When the residents of RB fled at 4:00 a.m. most of us had a clear picture of where we were going. We only had to travel a few miles to a shelter, hotel, family or friends. The Katrina victims had none of these options available. When Anderson Cooper reoports live from a burned out home in RB, there aren't dead bodies on the lawn, or people left without food, water, or shelter. The community of Rancho Bernardo is strong, we will help our neighbors who were less fortunate as they transition into rebuilding. Our community will continue to be strong & lend a helping hand to all of our neighbors who lost their homes. Thanks to CNN & Anderson Cooper for the coverage & compassion.

Michelle
Rancho Bernardo
San Diego, CA
Posted By Anonymous : 9:17 PM ET
In watching your wildfire coverage, I have been impressed by Governor Schwarznegger and his obvious concern for the people he serves, and his attention the small details - like baby formula and diapers, and medication, etc . - that people need on an every day basis. Its too bad he didn't handle Katrina; there probably would have been a better response and sooner. The Governor appears to be very proactive and that is exactly what is needed in a crisis like this.

Too bad he can't run for President.

Annie Kate
Birmingham AL
Posted By Annie Kate : 9:26 PM ET
So far, the people have been given more than enough food, water, etc. at the shelters because OTHER SAN DIEGANS have provided for them. Four years ago, as a Scripps Ranch resident, I saw what the rest of the city/county did for us. Now, blessed to have only evacuated this time, I will provide what I can for my fellow San Diegans. I hope the government does everything they should, but I know those who are suffering will be restored because of this community. We will continue to provide regardless of what assistance comes from outside resources.

I have to wait to give, because everywhere I tried today, I was turned away, they had enough. Amazing.

Continue to pray for those who are in pain right now, and all of the emergency personnel who are risking their lives to protect the homes and animals still in harms way.
Posted By Anonymous : 9:44 PM ET
Mr.Rowlands,
I am glad that you can reassure us that Mr.Schwarzenegger is working hard, and on the scene. I could not find nay other station that was telling us exactly hour by hour what the governor was doing. These fires are so devastating and one of the hugest stories of the year. I do feel sad for CNN that this huge story comes at a huge time for CNN, your debut of Planet in Peril. It would be able to be watched by so many more [as a million are evacuated]. Also, the generous coverage of CNN on the fires seems to set back the promotion for Plant in Peril.
On another note, I hope the government, and the governor continue to be very active in the restoration of California.
Thank You,
Marcus Harun
Posted By Marcus Harun, Hamden, CT : 9:47 PM ET
rich people's house's burn down whoo hoo i am gonna drink a beer!!!
Posted By Anonymous : 10:16 PM ET
Unlike Katrina, where the local city and state government expected the officials in Washington to come down and start up the buses to drive people out, the response to the fires was done the way it should be; those on the ground, closest to the fire, who are TRAINED to save lives and property did their job! No one expected President Bush to fly in and put out the fires.
Posted By Hugh -Rancho Cucamonga, Ca : 10:40 PM ET
The efficiency, the calmness, the responsible actions of Americans. People working together, thinking of others. No looting. Concentrated effort, organization. The Governor working with the various municipalities. What a contrast to New Orleans, where the local leaders collapsed like the levees.
Posted By Don H, -- Yuma Az. : 11:33 PM ET
I am shocked at the fact it took 4 days and 500,000 evacuees later to actually have the air support needed so desperately to help our Firefighter's on the ground. Please help me understand why we had so many Navy Pilots ready with aircraft to help with the dropping of Water but did not have clearance from our government to do so....This could have saved many homes, businesses, as well as agriculture that was completely wiped out. What Happened? I hear all the politicians saying on national television that this time we were prepared but I think to myself then why wasn't our air support there? The least the President could do is take a few minutes of his time to address Californian's as to what his intentions are.. His response was all too familar and reminds me of New Orleans... Most of the food, shelter, volunteers, came from local companies...What did Fema actually do?
Natale Constr. Vista, CA
Posted By Natale : 11:42 PM ET
I don't believe the response to the Cal fires are affected by the Natl Guard's presence in Iraq. I wish people would stop calling for the Nat'l Guard. No offense to them , but they are not trained to put out fires. You don't have to latch onto a nonsensical idea like this to argue about Iraq. It's a Democratic talking point.
Posted By Laura Tulsa OK : 11:48 PM ET
The Governator is handling this fire disaster the way it SHOULD be handled. He's delegating. Just as the President delegates power for local emergencies to city and state leaders. We shouldn't get too dependent on the federal "nanny" state mindset. Thank you to the Governator and the fine men and women of California's fire and police departments for NOT 'whistling Dixie' while Southern Cal burns. Oops, nothing personal, Mr. Nagin.
Posted By Laura Tulsa Ok : 12:51 AM ET
The people of San Diego are wonderful.
The information on if our homes are still there is horrible.
We are getting tired. Stay strong, stay patient. Be thankful to those who have helped us,
and just pity those who are using this horrible event to further their personal or political careers.
Posted By Anonymous : 12:56 AM ET
The Gov. has done a fantastic job as has Chernoff...Both are to be applauded. Now that arson is expected and almost confirmed, the focus should be on who and why? It should also be remembered that al Qaeda associates were discovered in Ojai, California. Was this ever proven? Certainly possible that the massive fires are the work of Terrorists; don't forget Camp Pendelton is nearby, also.
Posted By Anonymous : 10:29 AM ET
As a Former Resident of SD having grown up there & Current Resident of NOLA, I am intensly interested in how the FEDS & those most loathsome and necessary of all creatures INSURANCE Co.'s, handle this situation. Unfortunately unlike a Hurricane, that you can prepare for by staging basic things like Food & Water close to the anticipated impact zone(Are you listening Chertoff?) you cannot track a fire before it becomes one, however, having grown up in SD I know you should always keep Fire & Earthquakes on your mind and prepare for them as best you can as in NOLA you prepare by stocking up on supplies, cash (ATM's dont work without power) and EVACUATING. My hats off to the firefighters, my Brother in Law Doug is out of Alpine & has been working for days on the fire. He and my sister Penny came out & helped Gut my parents house and I can tell you from experience that you have to be self reliant in a situation like this as Government can be overwhelmed. Having lived in East County I know that there are plenty of people who have the drive to endure such things.

Now aside from all that Please understand that These Fires & Katrina Bear few things in common most importantly how the Feds & Insurance Co's will handle themselves. I am sick of hearing people compare the two as if we did not band together sharing food and shelter,working together as the Cajun Navy did to rescue people, to clear streets, to gut houses. Please understand that when your Whole City & Surrounding area is affected, when you Loose All Means of Communication, All Your Infrastructure , Utitlities, Phones, Water & Sewage Every Road has Debris on it and has to be cleard (We had to clear Trees that blocked the street just to get out and we evacuated to Hammond, LA) , When you suffer such complete destruction then you have a comprable situation. I hope no one ever has to go through any of these situations again but we all know you can't tame nature.

Peggy M. Pond
Posted By Peggy Pond : 10:48 AM ET
The reason why the Superdome in New Orleans was filled with people waiting for the government to do things for them and why the QualComm stad. is filled with people giving each other neck massages and doing yoga, is leadership and education.
Posted By Steve - Peoria, IL : 11:55 AM ET
To Natale concerning the lack of air support.
I have been an Army Blackhawk pilot for 15 years, and have worked on many firefighting missions. The first several days of the fire, the winds were too high to use aircraft. When the winds are more than 30-40 mph, the water or chemicals disperse before they reach the ground, and have no effect at all. The winds over the fires were at more than 70 mph, making it too dangerous for the pilots to fly low enough to drop their load, even if it would have worked. At that windspeed, they would have lost aircraft and people in a useless attempt.

Greg
Posted By Anonymous : 12:13 PM ET
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