A slice of local life: Kevin Long straightens things out at Apple City

Kevin Long attaches a tool  that feeds information into a computer program  that helps him put the car right again.

Kevin Long attaches a tool that feeds information into a computer program that helps him put the car right again.

This time of year, cars are sliding into each other, into guardrails and into ditches. And that means plenty of work for Kevin Long.

Long, 24, works as an auto body technician at Apple City Auto Body, on the Heights in Hood River. Each week or so he gets a new “project,” and this week it’s a Chrysler PT Cruiser with front-end damage.

“The frame is OK, but the core support is damaged,” he said.

By the time he gets the vehicle the damage has already been assessed, an estimate is written up and needed new parts have been ordered.

“I tear it down, write a supplemental report (on any damage not visible from the outside), repair it and get it ready for paint,” he said. The whole process for this car should take him 38.4 hours, according to the work order.

Right now the Cruiser is up on a frame rack and Long is measuring its “strut towers.” He attaches a giant caliper-like tool which is connected to a computer monitor that guides him in bringing all the contact points back to their original places.

When it has been squeezed and pulled back into shape by the other specialized equipment, Long will start putting it back together, his favorite part.

“It’s kind of like a big puzzle,” he said. “And every car is different.”

In the process, some parts will need patching and sanding, while others will be replaced with new ones, but Long and his three fellow auto body techs do it all, start to finish (except painting).

Long has been working for Apple City for four years, having started out there washing cars. His training has been done through a series of “I-Car” classes in Portland. The wall of the company’s reception area is filled with the certificates he and the other techs have earned.

While the weather outside may be bringing him more work, inside, life doesn’t change much day to day, except for the variety of vehicles he works on. His hours are regular, the shop is well-lit and temperature controlled, and at the end of the day he can go home.

In his off-time the Hood River native can be found volunteering with the Wy’East Fire District in Odell.

Springtime is the busiest time of year in his line of work, he said, which makes sense, given what happens during the winter. So there will be lots of projects coming up, no doubt. But Long derives great satisfaction from making a broken car whole again.

“It feels really good,” he said.

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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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