Ridin’ the storm out: Plan for the worst, hope for the best

A March 2016 windstorm wrecked a roof and scattered insulation in Naselle.

PACIFIC COUNTY — Meteorologists are warning that this weekend could bring a series of unusually severe, potentially destructive storms, and emergency planning experts are urging citizens who live in the path of the storms to start preparing now.

Though it’s always possible that the storms could lose power or change course, weather experts seem genuinely concerned — especially about the tail-end of Typhoon Songda, which is expected to make landfall on the northwest coast on Saturday. The National Weather Service has issued high-wind warnings and storm warnings for much of western Washington and Oregon, as well as gale warnings for near-shore areas.

In an Oct. 11 blog post, respected Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass wrote, “Starting Thursday, we will enter a period of extraordinarily active weather with the potential for heavy rain, flooding, and a highly dangerous windstorm with the potential to be an historic event.” Mass explained that the coastal areas of northern Oregon and Southern Washington could see hurricane force winds, adding “So much intense weather is going to hit us, that I don’t know where to start...but let me try.”

He described the Songda-fueled storm as “A true monster storm, potentially as strong as the most powerful storm in NW history (the Columbus Day Storm of 1962).”

Everyone knows that much-hyped weather events can turn out to be much-ado-about-nothing, but local emergency experts say this is not the time to get complacent.

In an Oct. 12 phone interview, Pacific County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Scott McDougall said many people are not adequately prepared for a natural disaster.

“It’s really basic stuff, and yet is stuff that people sometimes forget about,” McDougall said.

In relatively remote places like Pacific County, road damage, flooding, power outages and problems with communications systems can linger for days after a severe weather event, McDougall said, so families should prepare for the aftermath, as well as the storm. He noted that research about the Cascadia earthquake has changed the way emergency managers think about preparedness for other type of events.

“Three days [of supplies] isn’t enough,” McDougall said. “The messaging we are going to put out now is that people need to be prepared for two weeks. Why not prepare for a worst-case-scenario? If that scenario doesn’t come to pass, you’re still well prepared.”

McDougall offered the following tips for preparing for — and getting through — a major weather event:

  • • Make sure you have enough canned and other nonperishable foods to feed your family and your pets for several days.

  • • The power may go out, so stock up on foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking.

  • • Be sure you have enough clean drinking water to meet the needs of your family members and pets.

  • • If you expect to have problems with your water system, fill tubs and sinks ahead of time, so you will have water for dishes, hygiene, etc.

  • • Refill prescriptions, stock up on needed medical supplies, and make sure you have a backup-plan for any medical equipment that relies on electricity.

  • • Refill your gas tanks in your vehicles before the storm. Check to see if you need to stock up on batteries, gas for your generator or propane tanks. Store those items safely.

  • • Keep essential electronic devices fully charged, so they’ll keep working if the power goes out.

  • • Round up candles, matches, or lanterns and flashlights. Make sure they’re in working order.

  • • Place important documents and contact information in a water-safe container.

  • • Make plans for keeping your pets dry, safe and warm during the storm. Make a plan for how you will move livestock in the event of severe weather or flooding.

  • • Be sure that you have essential supplies in all of the places where you might be caught during a bad storm — for example, your workplace, your car.

  • • Walk around your property, looking for any potential hazards. Take time to secure loose items that could cause damage during a storm.

  • • Make sure you know where gas and water hookups are located, and how to turn them on and off.

  • • Check to be sure that you have enough blankets and warm clothing to keep warm if the heat goes out.

  • • Remember that generators, propane stoves, and charcoal barbecues can all generate carbon monoxide. Never use these items indoors. Use them only outdoors, in well-ventilated areas.

  • For medical, fire, rescue or other public safety emergencies, call 911.

  • It is also appropriate to call 911 if an essential piece of medical equipment, such as a dialysis machine or ventilator fails.

  • For assistance with non-urgent situations, call Pacific County Dispatch’s non-emergency line at (360)642-9397 or (360)875-9397.

  • If you discover a fallen power line, immediately contact the PUD office nearest you:

  • • Raymond — (360) 942-2411

  • • Long Beach — (360) 642-3191

  • • Naselle — (360) 484-7454

  • To report outages between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., call the PUD after-hours line for your area:

  • • Ocean Park/Long Beach/Ilwaco/Chinook: (877) 602-6465

  • • Raymond/South Bend/Naselle: (877) 204-6181

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