Are you looking forward to that warm, dry El Nino winter?

Harriet Vanderbilt, Red Cross Cascades Region

Don’t count on it!  This October was one of the snowiest on Mt. Hood since 2017 with over a foot of snowfall recorded at Timberline Lodge and Government Camp in a 24-hour period ending Wednesday, October 25th. Three days later, freeze warnings were issued by the National Weather Service for many areas across the Cascades Region.

We are used to rapid and unexpected changes in weather here in the Pacific Northwest, especially during the winter months.  Although the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) determined that Oregon and Washington would likely see warmer and drier winter weather, it is time to prepare for whatever mother nature decides to deliver.

The American Red Cross Cascades Region asks everyone to prepare now for adverse winter weather. There are four important steps to take now, before winter arrives.

  1. Plan to stay warm.  Make sure you are able to safely heat your home to prevent frostbite and hypothermia.  Check the insulation, caulking and weather stripping.  Dress in layers, including hats, gloves and weather-resistant boots.  Know where to go if your home loses power.
  2. Learn emergency skills.  First aid and CPR skills are important to learn.  Make sure your home has working smoke alarms and carbo monoxide detectors with backup batteries.  Learn how to keep pipes from freezing when your home loses power. 
  3. Plan to stay connected.  Monitor local weather and news channels.  Have a backup battery or non-electric way to charge your cell phone.  Have a battery-run radio to use.  Know the alerts-a WATCH means be prepared.  A WARNING means take action.
  4. Gather emergency supplies.  Stock up on food, water and medications.  Prepare a Go-Kit with 3 or more days of survival items.  Also have a Stay-at-Home Kit available.   It should have at least 2 weeks supply of necessities.  Have plenty of warm clothing as well as one gallon of drinking water per person.  Equip your car with emergency supplies to include a snow shovel.  Buy a second shovel for home use. 

During a winter storm, stay safe!  Use indoor heat sources such as generators, fireplaces and space heaters carefully.  Keep combustibles at least 3 feet from the heat source.  Use battery-fed lighting and flashlights instead of candles.  Never use grills or camp stoves indoors.  These heat sources will cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which will kill.  If you feel sick, dizzy or weak, get outside immediately and call 911!

Act fast if you see signs of frostbite or hypothermia.  Numbness, pain and skin color changes may indicate the presence of frostbite.  Soak the area with warm, not hot, water until feeling returns.  When the body loses heat faster than it produces it, body temperature plummets.  Hypothermia will kill!  Signs include shivering, confusion and slurred speech.  Move the patient to a warm area and seek emergency help.

Stay safe and take care of yourself after a winter storm.  Be aware of downed trees and power lines.  Take care walking on icy surfaces.  Pace yourself if you are shoveling snow. Use ice-melting products to prevent icy walkways.  Eat healthy food and get adequate sleep.  Always keep connected to family and friends!  Be ready and able to help in any emergency!

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