Swimmers cross the Columbia’s chilly waters


Nearly 500 people took on the Columbia River Monday during the annual Roy Webster Cross Channel Swim.

The Columbia River probably seemed wider than usual to a number of people early Monday morning, when the 61st annual Roy Webster Cross Channel Swim returned to Hood River.

The conditions weren’t as ideal as they were last year when the river was like glass, but it was a very successful swim, according to Craig Schmidt, director of the sponsoring Chamber of Commerce.

“Any time we can put that many people in the water and have them come out without incident, it’s a success,” he said.

Of the 494 participants, five asked to be taken out of the water by one of the many boats standing by, manned by the Sheriff’s department and volunteers. There was a fairly stiff breeze of about 20 miles per hour before things got going, but by the time the swimmers hit the water it had died down to about 5 or 10 mph.

“The swimmers were a little challenged by chop, but the wind was coming from a direction that didn’t create a lot of swell, so that was good,” Schmidt said.

“The water temperature was about 71 degrees, and the average is somewhere around 68 or 69. Several swimmers commented that it seemed warmer than usual,” he added.

The Webster swim is a fun event, not a competitive one. It draws teams made up of families and friends, and individuals young and old. Two of the families represented were the Webster family, six of whom kept the tradition going for the swim’s namesake, and the Pongracz family, of the Portland/Vancouver area, who also had six members participating.

The largest team consisted of 11 swimmers from Lake Oswego and Hood River’s “Sherman Street Swimmers” had eight members in the water. The oldest participant this year was Admiral Horton Smith, 78, of Seattle.

Coming the furthest distance for the event were Harris Buchbinder of Miami, Fla., and Elizabeth Marker, of New York City. And holding the title this year for most consecutive swims was Joe Sullivan of The Dalles, who has completed the swim a remarkable 32 times.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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