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Sunday, December 08, 2013 04:37
Monday, January 07, 2013 00:00
Would You Do It All Over Again?
The Severe Winter Storm of December 2007, carrying wind gusts approaching 100 mph, along with a multi - day snow and flood event, left its scars on many Grays Harbor County residents. Power outages impacted residents for 7-10 days while roadways were blocked from downed trees, power lines and flood waters. Gas was at a premium because many service stations couldn’t operate due to the power outage and those that could, had issues obtaining additional fuel. Long lines at the few open service stations resulted in tempers flaring. Gas was limited to a few dollars – cash money. Cash was at a premium because money access machines were inoperable and stores could not accept credit or debit cards. Communication was limited and local radio stations went off the air for extended periods of time. Everyone can recall exactly where they were and what problems their families had to endure during the event.
The warning about the severity of the storm from the National Weather Service was provided, numerous times, although it was hard to understand and lacked a sense of urgency. Local emergency managers failed to fully comprehend the message provided by the National Weather Service and when they finally realized the severity of the storm and began to alert the citizens, many had already faced the initial brunt of the events. Once impacted, there was no way to track the storm developments because there was no coastal Doppler radar. Residents faced the unknown and remained at the mercy of nature’s fury for many days.
Today, the National Weather Service is much more deliberate in their alerting to local emergency managers and to the general public. Better protocols and notifications have been instituted by the National Weather Service and by Grays Harbor County Emergency Management in order to alert our public to approaching severe weather. Once the storm arrives, the new coastal Doppler radar can track the storm and provide information specific to areas receiving the greatest impacts, assisting all jurisdictions in sending adequate resources to support the residents.
Many significant questions still loom today. If you were given notice, 48-72 hours prior to a huge storm approaching, as East coast citizens were prior to Hurricane Sandy, would you have done anything differently? If an evacuation order was given by local officials, would you evacuate, could you evacuate and if you left, where would you go? What about your pets? What alternatives are available for homeless families, the hospitals or assisted living facilities and the disabled community? Does your family have the capacity to deal with the impacts from a storm similar to or greater than the Severe Winter Storm of 2007? Would you want to relive it all over again?
Over the next few weeks, Grays Harbor County Emergency Management, Grays Harbor Public Health, the American Red Cross, our local hospitals and assisted living facilities, local churches, as well as members of senior citizen groups and the disabled community will be discussing those exact questions.
If that type of decision had to be made today, the impact would be substantial upon all jurisdictions and the public. Our goal is to become better prepared for any type of situation which may arise where an evacuation and/or mass sheltering may be needed.
We are requesting your help in answering these questions. Your questions and comments are always appreciated concerning these issues. You may comment on facebook or twitter or contact Grays Harbor Emergency Management at (360) 249-3911 or e-mail at