Solid snowpack brings security

April 23, 2011

Of the many common threads that tie people together across the Hood River Valley, water is among the most prominent, and the most important.

In spring and fall, when it rains, it rains on us all. Summer brings dry weather that stimulates people of all walks of life to get out and enjoy the streams, lakes and rivers woven into the landscape. And in winter, when water falls in the form of snow - and lots more rain - people either rejoice together by carving fresh tracks down the side of Mount Hood or floating swollen rivers in little plastic boats; or they loathe together, huddled indoors, waiting out the dreary months of grey skies and wet pavement.

This time of year, it seems everyone is paying close attention to the weather; especially those who depend on it for their livelihoods.

Farmers, a group linked more closely to weather and water than any avid riverhound or boardhead in the Gorge, are often up before dawn in April, tending to fragile young buds just barely in bloom. This year's cold, late spring is a cause for concern; many trees are in bloom now, and just one bad frosty night can spell disaster for acres of fruit trees. For many farmers, frost season signals the beginning of early mornings and long days that won't end until fruit is picked from their trees and hauled away.

One thing they can count this year that will make their jobs a little easier - barring any freak weather patterns - is a good supply of water throughout the summer. And with such a wet spring, most won't even need to tap into that supply for another couple months.

John Buckley, Craig DeHart and Mike Kleinsmith, managers for East Fork, Middle Fork and Farmers irrigation districts, keep as close of an eye as anyone on the valley's snow packs and water supplies. With optimism for a good summer water season, all three this week noted above-average snow levels and water equivalents.

"Both the reservoirs are overflowing right now, and there's still plenty of snow to melt," said Kleinsmith, who manages the district that serves customers on the west side of the lower valley.

Laurance Lake, in Parkdale, is the larger of the two reservoirs and serves upper valley farm and residential customers in MFID. Kingsley Reservoir, at the base of the west hills about 20 minutes out of Hood River, serves FID customers - about 1,800 from the reservoir to the Columbia, and east to about the Little League field on the heights.

Of the valley's three major irrigation districts, EFID is the most reliant on a good water year.

"One thing we don't have is a reservoir," said Buckley, EFID manager. "So we're entirely dependent on snowpack. Our water comes from the northeast slopes of Mount Hood, from the Clark, Newton and Pollalie drainages. In a drought, or after a bad snow year, when the snowpack has melted down to the glaciers, the water carries a lot more silt. That causes a lot of problems for our system."

Despite EFIC's challenges, Buckley said that, at this point in the season, things are looking very good for the summer. But that outlook, he said, could change quickly in July and August depending on what the

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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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