Editorial: Information and precautions vital as storm approaches

January 18, 2012

We can always depend on the weather for something to talk about.

"Where's our winter?" was the frequent refrain in December and early January.

We have our answer.

Winter is here.

Look outside, on the roads, and at the school schedule; two-hour delay Tuesday (and numerous event cancellations Tuesday night), closure likely on Wednesday, if weather predictions bear out.

Winter checked in hard and fast this week like a late-arriving guest.

Dragging snow and ice, winter seemed to be saying, "Where do I put all these bags?"

So far, few major problems have occurred on the roads, and credit goes to our public works crews for timely and regular sanding and de-icing runs, especially on hills.

An interesting case of life imitating art happened over the weekend.

"People seem to be nicer to each other when it snows," Neil Simon noted in the play "Prisoner of Second Avenue," which was presented at CAST last weekend in a staged reading. The play ends, fittingly, with the main characters holding up snow shovels in "American Gothic" stance, ready to lend a hand, as a snowstorm descends on the city.

It seemed like a harbinger of the weather we heard was coming. Everyone's ability to anticipate and track the weather is vastly improved in the Google age, so winter storms are rarely a surprise anymore.

Bad weather is probably the area least subject to the idea of "too much information." It's a good thing to keep track of and know what's coming your way. One service a lot of folks might not be aware of is the local "flash alerts" that tell about school delays and other impacts to the community in times of severe weather. (Turn to page A3 for details on how to enroll.)

A reminder of another key source of winter weather information is ODOT's TripChek website (and 5-1-1 phone line).

Say what you want about the level of efficiency of state services, this service is one that is reliable for anyone planning a trip.

With the weather that appears headed our way, travel is probably not a good idea. On Wednesday, weather services predict, the Gorge should see between 6-18 inches of snow, along with strong east winds putting a firm coat of ice on everything.

Even for short trips, precautions include an extra flashlight, food, flares, warm blankets and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.

Stay safe, and that way you might keep the effects of severe winter weather in the status of a point of conversation - and not direct personal experience.

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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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