Where was Cheney during Katrina? Handling his own emergency

| Tue Sep. 13, 2005 7:14 PM EDT

After Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, some of us were struck by the obvious absence of Dick Cheney from the media scene. It turns out he was very busy handling another emergency: His office called Southern Pines Electric Power Association and left two voice mail messages, ordering power to be immediately restored to Colonial Pipeline Company, which supplies power to the Northeast. The re-starting of two power substations in Collins, Mississippi delayed by at least 24 hours efforts to restore power to two rural Mississippi hospitals.

Jim Compton, general manager of the South Mississippi Electric Power Association, said that he "reluctantly agreed to pull half our transmission line crews off other projects...."

"We were led to believe a national emergency was created when the pipelines were shut down," Compton said. Power was not restored to the hospitals until six days after the storm hit. Crews working to restore power to rural water systems were also transferred to the Colonial Pipeline project. The workers faced significant safety issues because they had to work in the dark, and there were fires in the trees and broken power poles.

According to the Hattiesburg American, Cheney's office referred calls about the pipeline to the Office of Homeland Security, where calls were not accepted, but email requests were. The senior manager of corporate and public affairs of Colonial did not return calls.