Editorial: In the air

Though the pall might pale, smoke dangers remain

Crews are battling a growing wildfire between Hood River and Mosier.

Photo by Adam Lapierre.
Crews are battling a growing wildfire between Hood River and Mosier.

Talk of the weather took on three key words this week: sun, wind and smoke.

Mainly smoke.

The scent of Milepost 66 was everywhere, and often the evidence hung in tiny bits of ash.

We have all been breathing even smaller particulates from the fire. The experience gives us a greater sense of empathy for what our neighbors to the north and south were going through in the previous two weeks as smoke and ash fell from the fires near White Salmon and Trout Lake and Sisters. Several surreal periods of clear skies over Hood River persisted even while we could see the plumes near White Salmon and Mount Adams, and the general brown haze to the east and south.

This week, Hood River had its pall, and citizens made the best of it. Local authorities were quick to issue helpful warnings about avoiding respiratory problems. Hood River Fire Department’s is on our website and on page A11 of this edition.

Smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly depending on weather factors including wind direction and speed. Smoke is made up of tiny particles (particulate matter) that can be harmful to breathe especially for children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung or heart conditions.

A ridge of high pressure covers the western United States and will continue to bring higher than normal daytime temperatures and low daytime humidity resulting in continued high fire danger in the region. High pressure is expected to persist for the next week.

Given that the smoke will be with us at least through this weekend, and possibly longer, and the fire season is not over yet, here are some advisories from the county health department:

People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children should limit prolonged physical exertion.

Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, closing all windows and doors and using a filter in your heating/cooling system that removes very fine particulate matter.

Avoid tobacco smoke.

Avoid strenuous outdoor activity.

People suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their asthma or breathing management plans or contact their health care providers.

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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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