Update for Nov. 23, 2015
Lisa Jameson, 847-8099, LJameson@spokanecounty.org
Monday, November 23, 2015 at 4:54 p.m.
SPOKANE, Wash. – Greater Spokane Department of Emergency Management (DEM), in partnership with numerous agencies, held another press conference today to update the community on recovery from Nov. 17’s historic windstorm. Hard work from utilities, street crews and neighbors continued over the weekend to get people back into their homes. The weather remained favorable for this work, but the forecast now calls for a turn to windy snow and rain. Crews are working to remain resilient and the community’s contribution with its own commitment to remain #InlandStrong is much appreciated.
Said SRHD Health Officer, Dr. Joel McCullough, “I want you to know that the stress many of you are experiencing is a normal response to an abnormal situation. I want to tell you that you’re not alone.” Concluded Dr. McCullough, “Especially for those of you with power, who have returned to some semblance of your daily life, I urge you to reach out to those still in the midst of this disaster and recovery and simply ask, ‘How are you doing?’ Invite them into your homes. Help them access the services and resources they are need.”
For those still without power, 23 day-use and overnight shelters are still open throughout the community, including five at Spokane Public Schools. The complete list is available on the health district’s web site at: www.srhd.org/news.asp?id=533. 2-1-1, whose staff already fielded hundreds of calls, also remains a tremendous resource for the community for locating post-windstorm services, as well as a Google Crisis map showing shelter, warming and grocery locations. Agencies also released today a new Emergency Resource Guide that consolidates many of the resources and services available after the windstorm: http://srhd.org/documents/EmergencyResourcesGuide.pdf.
Officials cautioned the public that the combination of freezing temperatures, moisture and winds out of the northeast present new challenges and encouraged residents to use extreme caution around storm debris—downed trees should be considered unstable. If possible, residents are encouraged to stay indoors or in shelters, and to stay off roadways. Drivers must be more cautious than usual as snow could obscure potential hazards and make stopping at intersections without working signals more dangerous.
Officials are also asking for the public’s help in keeping storm drains and streets clear of debris and to not place limbs or other storm waste in the roadway. If plows do need to roll, the streets and storm drains will need to be clear. Also related to storm damage is an updated online reporting tool from Greater Spokane Emergency Management at www.spokanecounty.org/emergencymgmt for residents and businesses that suffered storm damage to submit their damage information.
Also related to properties, Spokane Police and Spokane County Sheriff officers continue to assess any rise in commercial or residential crime and saw a slight increase. Police officers stepped up patrols in the darkest neighborhoods and will continue to be out there, but citizens are also reminded to be vigilant by securing generators and other items, keeping a close eye out for unusual activity and calling Crime Check 456-2233 with any concerns.
Dr. McCullough also reiterated public health messages around safely heating homes without electricity in the face of another incident this morning of a family with a generator inside and possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Please, do not bring generators or unsafe sources of heat, like a charcoal grill, into the house where their toxic fumes can build up and hurt people. Dress in multiple, light layers and wear a hat and mittens to keep warm. Also, please continue to avoid open flames in the house and use flashlights instead.
The call for volunteers is renewed for Tuesday to go door-to-door to check on homebound individuals and ensure they have access to resources and remain safe and warm. Since volunteer efforts started, over 250 volunteers have visited nearly 4,300 households. For individuals who would like to volunteer, please visit volunteerspokane.org or call 2-1-1. If an individual would like to simply show up on Nov. 24, they can arrive for training:
Also, as Thanksgiving approaches, access to food is increasingly becoming a concern in the community. Second Harvest offers a list on its website of eastern Washington emergency food outlets or call (509) 534-6678. Partners are also coming together to bolster existing communal meal locations, listed here, and discern if additional locations will be needed for communal meals. More information will be released when available.
City of Spokane continues to make progress with fully deployed crews focusing on clearing residential and side streets, and just two arterials remaining blocked. They extended free disposal of large storm debris through Nov. 29 at their Northside Landfill and Waste to Energy Plant. Over the past few days, those locations have accepted 1,360 tons of debris. Smaller debris can be placed into their clean green bins for regular pick up. Perishable food items can be disposed of in clean green bins once the packaging has been removed.
Specific to Spokane County efforts, Commissioner Todd Mielke commented on the unusual nature of this storm as its worst damage affected urban areas and rural areas less so. Crews are widely deployed and focusing on arterials and residential and side streets. Due to high volumes, the Spokane County Regional Solid Waste System is directing residential storm-related yard and tree waste to its North County Transfer Station, 22123 N. Elk-Chattaroy Road. Debris of all sizes will be accepted free-of-charge through Nov. 29. Hours for those facilities are 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Avista continues to make good progress on critical infrastructure and human services priorities, with additional help from six western states and Canada. Avista Chairman and CEO, Scott Morris reiterated, “If a resident is without power but has a neighbor with power, please report that to Avista. It doesn’t hurt to confirm with us that we know you’re still without electricity.” On rotating shifts, 132 Avista crews representing a workforce of roughly 700 people are now in the field working in populated areas—32,000 homes are still without power in their service area. Avista continues to dig out from the worst natural disaster the company has seen in its history and, due to the magnitude of the destruction, work is taking longer than expected. Officials are still expecting that it may be mid-week before the majority of customers have power.
Inland Power and Light is still focused on efficiency and safety in their restoration efforts as 3,375 of their members remain without power. Said Inland Chief Operations Officer Glen Best, “If residents operating on a generator can turn off their main breaker, to avoid electricity being re-routed—or backfed—back to the grid it allows crews to more effectively turn on power.” Inland reiterated their need for individuals to stay clear of downed power lines. It has 22 total crews now dedicated to helping in its restoration of members’ power, but is also projecting a midweek restoration of power.
City of Spokane Valley Public Works crews removed all reported blockages from downed trees in the public roadway. No new reports have been received. Please call 921-1000 to report any new storm-related tree and debris blockages in Spokane Valley city roadways. Volunteers were out in seven areas that were still without power distributing safety information, recovery updates, and information on resources for those affected by the storm. Three of those volunteer teams reported back that power was since restored in those areas. Most of traffic signals are up and running.
DEM continues to coordinate resources throughout Spokane County including first responders, health organizations, social service agencies and other resource providers and power companies—public safety remains a priority.