Sunset storm brings beauty, hint of danger

Weather Saturday starts, extinguishes small fire

Panorama point yielded this dramatic view of the storm that passed over the east side of the Hood River Valley at sunset Saturday evening.

Janet Hamada
Panorama point yielded this dramatic view of the storm that passed over the east side of the Hood River Valley at sunset Saturday evening.

Hood River residents were treated to an impromptu light show last weekend, courtesy of Mother Nature.

A thunderstorm rolled into the Gorge late Saturday evening — interrupting a day that had otherwise been mostly sunny, hot, and dry up to that point — and was gone to the north almost as quickly as it had come.

Lightning flicked from cloud to cloud, and to the ground, as the valley experienced a powerful storm that brought with it a brief, but intense downpour.

According to Jon Gehrig, wildfire coordinator for Hood River Fire and EMS, the storm was responsible for both starting and extinguishing at least one confirmed fire just outside of town.

“As far as our lightning storm over the weekend, there were two strikes reported — one in the Wy’East Fire District and one in the West Side District which was confirmed in the vicinity of Eby Road,” Gehrig reported. “The rain extinguished this fire before personnel arrived.”

The storm brought with it localized rain that drenched some areas of the Hood River Valley while leaving other areas mostly dry. The business district of Hood River was pummeled by the cloudburst, but Gehrig noted that the Middle Mountain weather station (located in the mid-Valley) reported no measurable precipitation for Saturday.

Gehrig speculated, though, that “the impact of the lightning storm may have been worse if we hadn’t received precipitation on Thursday,” and that “there was enough moisture to keep the fire vector low.”

Lightning-caused wildfires at this time of year aren’t typically a chief concern for firefighters. Gehrig explained that historically, only around 7 percent of wildfire vectors reported in the month of June for the past 40 years have been caused by lightning.

Instead, Gehrig advised that currently “we should be most concerned about our actions, as a fire is more likely to start from debris burning, fireworks, a careless campfire or smoking.”

The Oregon Department of Forestry officially declared fire season in effect as of the morning of June 14 and a burn ban will also start, per usual, on July 1. Gehrig advised people to contact their local fire departments to see what is permitted under the ban.

Though the storm brought with it some precipitation, Gehrig didn’t expect any of the rain received last weekend or any of the precipitation in this week’s forecast to have an impact on this year’s fire season, which is expected to be a “high hazard season” due to a dry spring.

“I don’t … foresee the coming weather to change the outlook for the season,” he said. “My advice is to remain vigilant, as the fire season is upon us.”

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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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