No accident

Don’t let caution fly out the window When winter storms hit the highway

November 30, 2005

Don’t call them “accidents.”

Crashes or wrecks are more appropriate terms for most of the vehicle incidents that happened on Interstate 84 and other lanes of travel in the post-Thanksgiving snowstorm.

That’s the reaction of Lieut. Gregg Hastings to the repeated spin-outs, stalls, fender-benders and other problems on the freeway Monday night and Tuesday morning after four inches of snow fell on the area (click First snowfall snarls roadways).

No one, Hastings included, makes light of any unwanted or hazardous occurrence involving a car traveling in the snow or any other weather condition.

But Hastings has a point: avoidable is the word to describe most of the crashes that happened in the year’s first Gorge-level snowfall.

For example, many drivers ignored the posted instructions to chain up. Many others drove at high speeds inappropriate for the conditions.

“It’s a challenge we have mostly in mountain passes but given the conditions present there it’s similar,” Hastings said.

Troopers, short-handed as it is, would issue more citations if they had the time, for failure to comply with chain or tire requirements, impeding a lane of travel, and a wealth of other potential violations, according to Hastings.

Ironically, they do not have the time during snowy conditions, because they are short-staffed and because they must move from one hazardous situation to the next.

The further irony of Monday’s storm is that weather prognosticators pegged the exact time of the start of the storm.

Gorge residents were surprised to hear the Oregon Department of Transportation alert us to a winter storm to hit at 3 p.m. Not “mid-afternoon,” or “sometime before dusk,” as the predictions usually read. They said 3 p.m., and the first flakes started to fall in Hood River at 2:50 p.m. with the lacy precipitation coming down in earnest 10 minutes later.

Which points to the fact that we all had warning and time to prepare. And that underscores the central point all drivers must try to remember when bad weather hits.

“The wrecks were all avoidable,” Rivers Edge driver Mike Sullivan said Monday, echoing Hastings, “if people would slow down and find an alternative route.”

There was at least one serious injury in a wreck on snowy Highway 35, and our best wishes go out to the victim and his family.

Our unusual November storm we can take as a not-so-subtle hint to be prepared and use utmost caution for our own sake and those in the lanes next to us and in front of us.

Truly, vehicle safety is no accident.

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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 to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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