After a very sunny and dry start, the Pacific Northwest’s December is now expected to turn wet and windy — at least for a while.
Particularly bearing in mind that many are new to this area’s climate challenges, here’s some good advice from the Pacific County Emergency Management Agency.
Is your home ready for winter?
• Bring outdoor belongings indoors. Things like patio furniture or hanging plants can become projectiles during a windstorm.
• Prepare for possible isolation. Be sure that you have a fully stocked emergency supply kit, plenty of non-perishable food, and keep a sufficient amount of heating fuel (such as firewood or propane.)
• Keep the cold out. Extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
• Check your roof and gutters. Look for loose, missing, or damaged shingles and flashing around vents to reduce the risk of flying debris or water damage. Make sure that gutters are solidly attached.
• Protect your foundation. Clear your rain gutters and make sure that water drains away from the house.
• Protect Pipes. Insulate your pipes and let water drip from faucets during cold weather to avoid the pipes bursting.
• Test your sump pump. If your home has a basement, make sure your sump pump is in working order to help prevent basement flooding.
• Check or install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Keep spare batteries on hand to ensure your detectors are always operational.
• Make sure your fire extinguishers are charged and accessible. With wood stoves and space heaters in use during the cold months, it is especially important to have fire extinguishers ready.
• Check your chimney. To prevent chimney fires, make sure your chimney is clean and clear of obstructions (like bird nests) before starting the first fire of the season.
• Check your heaters. Electric wall heaters need dust and lint removed, and heater covers should be cleaned. Portable electric heaters need to be checked to make sure the tip-over switch works. Furnaces need frequent filter changes during the high-use months.
• Get to know your generator. Make sure you have a safe place to run the generator, and that everything is already set up to connect it with your home wiring system. Remember, never run it indoors!
• Learn how to shut off your electricity. If your home floods, it is important that you are able to locate your breaker box and are familiar with how to cut power to the house. Remember never to turn power back on after the flood until an electrician has checked the system.
• Learn how to shut off water valves. Being able to quickly locate and shut off your home’s water supply could save your home from serious water damage should a pipe burst.
Take care of yourself
In addition to the pragmatic tips above, the Observer’s editor offers these observations based on many years here:
• Get outside. On all but the stormiest days, there are breaks in the weather when it’s safe to get out and enjoy our beautiful surroundings. Even half an hour of fresh air and natural light will make a huge difference in your emotional and physical health. If in doubt, before going out take a look at the Langley Hill radar to see what weather is approaching from the Pacific.
• Be sensible about it. If it’s very windy, stay out of the woods. It doesn’t take a very big falling branch to seriously injure anyone in its path. This also goes for trees around houses — branches and entire trees can do extensive damage. Prune overhanging limbs yourself and/or consult a professional arborist.
• Maintain social connections. The Peninsula Senior Center and scores of social clubs and volunteer opportunities provide a perfect fit for everyone. Don’t let isolation turn into a mental tar pit.
• Pay attention. At this time of year, it makes sense to monitor weather information in case a really serious storm is approaching. The National Weather Service in Portland is the best official source. The Chinook Observer’s webpage and Facebook feed provide early warnings about threats like atmospheric rivers and cyclonic winds. Sign up for emergency management’s emergency notification system via their webpage.
• Stock up. To the extent you can, if a major storm is predicted it’s a great idea to top off your vehicle’s fuel tank, take a little cash out of the bank and refill any vital prescriptions. Make sure you have some easy-to-prepare foods and bottled water. Electricity outages can knock out gas pumps, ATMs and close local stores.
• Don’t despair. By around Valentine’s Day, the early flowers will be blooming.