Lightning heralds wildfire season

Lightning strikes close to the ground in downtown Hood River Sunday night. The storm brought heavy downpours to areas of the valley.

Photo by Adam Lapierre.
Lightning strikes close to the ground in downtown Hood River Sunday night. The storm brought heavy downpours to areas of the valley.

Crack! Rumble! Flash! Repeat.

With Sunday’s spectacular lightening displays and rainstorm, the skies over Hood River provided a thunderous opening to this year’s official wildfire season.

On Monday, the National Weather Service issued a red flag alert advising Hood River County residents of extreme fire danger — a result of high winds, drying vegetation “fuels” and incoming lightening storms. The remaining summer will provide similar wildfire danger.

According to Dana Tenold, public information officer for the Oregon Department of Forestry The Dalles Unit, “If citizens see a significant downstrike and see a glow later on, please call it in. We appreciate anybody who sees anything to give us a call or to use the 9-1-1 system. What makes our fire activity unique are the wind conditions, with gusts up to 35 miles per hour.”

According to Tenold, Hood River County was “lucky” after this most recent thunderstorm — where most ground strikes bypassed the area. The same storm ignited two wildfires just hours later in the John Day area. One now engulfs 230 acres and a second, 300 acres.

Although the current fire control level allows for campfires, an all-out burn ban is in place for debris burning in the county.

Having doubts about the destructive power of current weather conditions? The Hood River Watershed Group and the U.S. Forest Service are offering a tour of last year’s Dollar Lake and the 2008 Gnarl Ridge burn zones.

The tour will provide an opportunity to compare the burn patterns, fire fighting efforts and recovery from these fires.

Scheduled from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., the tour cost is $18. Transportation will be provided. Space is limited; register with Hood River Community Education online at or by calling 541-386-2055.

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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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