Environment, Whales, and Wildfires

Published: 1988
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1988 was a year, medical waste turned up on US beaches. A dozen states reported it, vials, syringes, items that hospital would throw out. Long Island official Shelly Domash says no one was sure where it came from.

Shelly Domash: “It could have come from a sewage treatment plant. It could have fallen off a garbage barge or it could have been purposely illegally dumped.”

Howard Dicus: Resort towns had to close their beaches to clean them up. The medical waste dumping mystery re-awakens a national interest in pollution problems and so did the weather. Concern about Earth's protective Ozone layer, about Global Warming increased as America sweltered through the hottest summer in memory. Diane Burr (Ph) reports on the great drought of 88.

Diane Burr: It was the worst drought in generations. Pete Myers, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture spoke for everyone.

Pete Myers: “I have never seen anything of this magnitude over the whole country”

Diane Burr: Thousands of acres of crops died in the searing sun and rainless heat. North Dakota Farm Commissioner Kent Jones.

Kent Jones: “What's gone is gone and that's the wheat and the durum and the barley and the oats.”

Diane Burr: As city folk rationed water and watched their lawns die, farmers added up their losses. Kentucky official Roger Nesbitt.

Roger Nesbitt: “I think, you know, it's becoming more and more imperative to we are looking at millions and millions of dollars in losses.”

Diane Burr: There was less grain so grain cost more. Farmers sent their livestock to market rather than pay the rising cost of scarce corn feed. This is Diane Burr.

Bob Fass: This is Bob Fass. The same drought that caused such problems for farmers dried out the woodlands of the west and set the stage for one of the worst fire seasons ever. Almost six million acres burned in wild fires that began in the south east in the spring and were burning in California right into December. The worst of the fire was in the August of our national parks, mighty Yellowstone where for months flames ravaged the forest leaving a third of the land within the parks boundary blackened. In Alaska more that two million acres burnt and the black hills of South Dakota were burned around Mount Rushmore. In California people like to live by the forest and so the fire in the foothills of the Sierra destroyed more than 200 homes. John Ledbetter had to evacuate from the town of Rough and Ready.

John Ledbetter: “We are very abstained to think about something like they are losing our 19:31 because it's all there is, is what I have in that house.”

Bob Fass:The fires raised new questions over the policy of the Federal government to let some fires burn. Agencies of the government ended up spending half a billion dollars to fight the fires, but some said they should have done more sooner. This is Bob Fass.

Howard Dicus: In the Caribbean in 88, the problem was just the opposite. Hurricane Gilbert destroyed one our of four homes in Jamaica. Correspondent Kenneth Seaholm filed reports by flashlight.

Kenneth Seaholm: “Over 500,000 people are homeless. We are without electricity and water supply. Even as I speak to you, there is a water truck outside and a mad scramble by many residents to get water,”

Howard Dicus: The storm was weaker when it hit Texas, but strong enough to spawn tornadoes inland. Linda Newburn fled the coast to be safe and was sorry.

Linda Newburn: “I left Coast 20:16 three days ago to escape the hurricane and now I get stuck in a tornado.”

Howard Dicus: The worst storms of the season were on the opposite side of the globe. Typhoons killed tens of thousands of people and left millions homeless and sick in Bangladesh and the Philippines. 1988 was the year they saved the whales, two whales stuck in the ice in Alaska. The ice was attacked by everything from Soviet icebreakers to Eskimos with saws. When the whales finally swam free, this national guardsmen missed them.

Speaker: The whales were beginning to be like a family pack.