Flood watch: Editorial for Jan. 19, 2011

Jan. 19, 2011

Every storm has its own soul and carries new debris and new ways to describe it. As the Hood River dumped a lumber-filled torrent over scenic Punch Bowl (page A1), Adam Lapierre described it as "tree soup." Around every bend in the river there's a turn of a phrase.

Punch Bowl, vividly named even in normal conditions, turned into a muddy cauldron as logs submerged and then speared straight up out of the cold chocolatey froth.

It begs for an update on the old "if a tree falls …" expression: If a log shoots out of a roiling pool and no one's there to hear it, does it make a splash?

Fortunately, the splashes, crunches and growls of the surging river, while heard and felt, did little damage in the Hood River Valley.

Our neighbors in the Zigzag area on the south side of the mountain did not fare so well as record rains led to devastating erosion. Mt. Hood shielded us from the brunt of the storm, leaving the northeast side with just over an inch, compared with 5-6 inches on the southwest slopes.

Our sympathies to the families who lost their homes; these communities have a long and expensive clean-up ahead.

Granted, more will be known, once the waters and debris settle, about the damage on this side of the mountain. But it appears the valley escaped anything resembling the costly damage of the last significant flood event on the Hood River, November 2006.

Thanks to the snow pack, soils and hillsides mostly held fast.

But every geological event is different. It is impossible to know now how much more likely the riverbanks and uplands are to give way in future storm events.

It is safe to assume there is some weakening. Particularly vulnerable places are bases of steep hillsides; canyon bottoms, stream channels, and areas of rock and soil accumulation at the outlets of canyons.

Whether you are traveling by vehicle or hiking or skiing, care should be taken this time of year. According to the National Weather Service, hazardous areas include road cuts or other areas where slopes of hills have been excavated or over-steepened; and places where slides or debris flows have occurred in the past.

The landscape has changed. Our rivers will surely have new bends, and the character of the delta will be different. We're seeing another winter, another change of scenery.

The rocks may be old, but they still know how to roll.

Latest stories

Latest video:

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

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners