Rep Madison Cawthorn is facing criticism from some in his district for the speed and quality of his response to flooding in areas of his district resulting from the landfall of Tropical Depression Fred.
An op-ed published on Saturday by The Mountaineer described Mr Cawthorn’s actions in the days following flooding that began on Tuesday and continued into Wednesday as an “unforgivable dereliction of duty”, and claimed that his office had only drafted, not signed or delivered, a letter calling for a state of emergency to be declared by noon on Wednesday.
The flooding affected many parts of western North Carolina including areas in the southwestern part of Mr Cawthorn’s district, North Carolina’s 11th, which encompasses the city of Asheville and some surrounding towns and areas.
Several people were confirmed killed across the region in the flooding, and dozens more were injured. Roughly 1,800 Duke Energy customers across the Carolinas were reporting power outages as of Monday, according to the company’s outage map.
“In a call with his office at around 11:20 a.m. on Wednesday, more than a day after floodwaters began to rise, staffers were still scrambling to respond to basic questions, apparently surprised by the onslaught of calls from constituents stating they have ‘been working on it all morning’”, wrote the op-ed’s author, Callie Pruett. Ms Pruett serves as the political director of Appalachians for Appalachia, a locally based community organising group that supported President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
“Cawthorn’s first public comments on the matter were around 24 hours after the Pigeon River reached initial flood levels, followed by retweets of hours-old resources from other public organizations working on the crisis. His tweets in support of the community and of photo ops with damage came more than 12 hours after floodwaters fell back below the flood line,” she continued in the op-ed.
A review of Mr Cawthorn’s Twitter feed revealed that his first content related to the floods came in the form of a flurry of retweets of North Carolina’s Emergency Management agency and state Department of Transportation; the retweets began after 1pm. on Wednesday.
The day the op-ed was published, Mr Cawthorn took what is so far his first reported trip to view flood damage in his district, and traveled to the towns of Balsam Grove and Rosman, NC, to see the scenes and take pictures with local officials which also appeared on his Twitter account.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Cawthorn’s office to determine if the Saturday trip was the first to flood-affected areas undertaken by the congressman. The House was out of session last week, meaning most members of Congress and their staffs were at home.
His apparent absence was also noted by a group identifying itself as an Asheville-based chapter of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led organization that promotes action to slow and lessen the effects of climate change.
The congressman was busy “culture-warring while half his district floods”, wrote the group on Twitter.
Off culture-warring while half his district floods.— Sunrise Movement Asheville 🌅 (@sunrisemvmtavl) August 18, 2021
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