Lisa Jameson, 847-8099, LJameson@spokanecounty.org
Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 3:51 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 continue over the weekend to get people back into their homes. The wind is expected to start picking up late this afternoon with gusts of up to 30mph that will continue through Wednesday. Crews are working to remain resilient and the community’s contribution with its own commitment to remain #InlandStrong is much appreciated.
Governor Jay Inslee, who assigned a staff member to Spokane County’s emergency management operations group in the immediate hours after the winds peaked, attended today’s press conference and talked about how Spokane County as a community has pulled together during one of the most devastating storms in our history. “We know statewide this has been a very long and very tough week for Spokane County,” said Governor Inslee, “Spokane County has shown it is #InlandStrong in the last week and I have seen it in just the hour and a half I’ve been here.” Governor Inslee also met with volunteers before they continued door-to-door to check on homebound individuals without power.
For those still without power, 23 warming centers and 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. Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs (SNAP) has been out delivering firewood and tarps to cover roofs. 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.
The state has said that for current DSHS Clients, if they currently receive SNAP/Basic Food benefits and their food has been destroyed in a household disaster or misfortune, it can be replaced. Federal rules limit the replacement to the value of food lost up to the amount of the household’s monthly benefits. To request replacement benefits, please call DSHS at 1.877.501.2233. They must report the loss within 10 days in order for DSHS to replace their benefits. If someone does not currently receive SNAP/Basic Food benefits and thinks they may be eligible, they can apply for benefits under current SNAP/Basic Food program rules. Individuals and families who have gross income before taxes or withholding of up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines may be eligible for benefits. To apply for Basic Food from any computer with internet access, go to www.washingtonconnection.org. They can also apply for benefits at your local Community Services Office or call 1.877.501.2233.
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 and downed lines may not be visible through the snow. 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.
Spokane County advised SCRAPS is taking pets as a temporary shelter for people without power. They also still have approximately 20 dogs that are “storm strays” that are waiting for their owners to claim them.
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.
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.
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 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.