Cascade Locks assesses response to ice storm

January 25, 2012

A fire engine generator connected to a copier was among the unusual steps taken in Cascade Locks Thursday to get word to the community about the power outage.

Fire department volunteers, public works and City Light employees and spouses took flyers door-to-door last week to make sure as many community members as possible had details about the outage.

One goal was to spread the word about the warming shelters set up by the county and Red Cross in Hood River that were available to Cascade Locks residents facing a night without electricity.

If the power goes out again, the fire hall will be the basic community resource, announced Mayor Lance Masters.

"We are fortunate as a community to have that fire station that has backup power, and it will be the point of contact for information," he said.

Citizens can continue to call the following number for updates in case of weather-related problems: 541-374-8510.

In last week's storms, "Our volunteers and our partners in the community are really the ones who came through for the community," said Masters. He and councilors Jeff Helfrich and Mark Storm also went to the fire hall to help.

"It was a very coordinated effort by everyone who was there," Helfrich said.

"This shows how isolated we can be once we lose one of our creature comforts such as water or power," Helfrich said.

"I think we're going to learn a lot about this," said Storm, thanking fire volunteers, city staff and Hood River County.

"It's good to see where we're at," in terms of readiness, Storm said. "There's a lot of things we can learn from."

Meanwhile, the city is looking ahead to a Feb. 9 meeting at 1:30 with an emergency planning consultant. Interim City Manager Paul Koch said the county informed him that the federal government will cover the cost of the consultant.

"This comes at a really good time for us," Koch said.

Masters gave the following description of last week's response by staff and volunteers:

On Thursday fire volunteers contacted Karl Tesch, Hood River county emergency services manager, and City Light line workers for a report. They said the city's main line from Hood River had catastrophic damage to the structures that hold up the lines Thursday. On that day, the community experienced about 90 minutes of outage, restored in time for the public meeting on the budget for 2012-13.

Meanwhile crews connected the city to a BPA backup line.

Friday's freezing rain caused trees to fall, and damage to a backup line support structure, which turned off electricity on Saturday morning.

Council Members Jeff Helfrich, Mark Storm and Masters went to the fire station to help coordinate the response.

"We were met there by 10 volunteers who were there to help answer calls and help the community," Masters said.

Fire officer Jess Zerfing formulated a fire department staffing plan to cover the next 48 hours.

Public works employees were meanwhile checking on water and sewer service, and Tracy Huff, City Light superintendent, gave Masters regular updates on the anticipated 24-hour outage.

"We contacted Hood River County - they offered transportation to warming stations in Hood River," Masters said.

"By nighttime, we decided we ought to get to people in their homes; public works employees and spouses went door to door, because at that point we knew we were likely to go through the night without power," added Masters.

Ultimately, power did come back on at 6:30 a.m., and Huff called the mayor to say it was anticipated it would stay up, and was "not just a blip," Masters said.

"Currently we remain on backup line, as there has just been not enough time to repair all the damage earlier this week to the main line."

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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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