Inclement Weather Joint Press Release
Another windstorm could mean more downed power lines and outages
Lisa Jameson, 847-8099, LJameson@spokanecounty.org
Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 2:29 p.m.
As the Spokane community continues its recovery from November’s historic windstorm and subsequent multi-day/-week power outages, residents may again have to deal with more outages in the face of another, hopefully less powerful, windstorm. As always, The Greater Spokane Department of Emergency Management encourages citizens to be prepared with an emergency kit. This means having your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity.
Today will be breezy and warm throughout the region. More rain is expected overnight and then winds will increase again during the early morning hours Wednesday. While the magnitude is not expected to be as extreme as the November 17th event, these winds will be strong. We are expecting winds about 10 -15 mph less than the November 17th event but combined with saturated soil from the recent heavy rain, there is a high possibility that more trees could come down during the day Wednesday. As for timing, winds will increase during the Wednesday morning (6-8am) and then diminish later in the afternoon (after 4pm).
Combined with already wet ground and still unstable trees, this storm could again result in downed power lines and potential electric power outages.
The City of Spokane has street and wastewater management crews deployed in each of the city’s three geographic districts – the northeast, northwest and south. Those crews are clearing storm drains and leaves from the storm water management system. Work is also continuing in streets, sidewalks and parks on debris cleanup from the Nov. 17 windstorm.
The City of Airway Heights will be closing Sunset Park 9Dec15 from 6am to 4pm. Spokane County road crews are on standby to clear streets and roads. In addition, crews will operate generators as needed for the County’s sewer system and Water Reclamation Facility. City of Spokane Valley Public Works crews and other staff members are prepared to respond to reports of downed trees in the roadways, missing or inoperative traffic signs and signals, and to help steer community members to response and recovery resources.
“Avista crews and supporting employees are prepared and ready to respond to outages that may occur from the expected storm. We encourage customers who experience an outage to report it to Avista at (800) 227-9187 or online through a mobile device at avistautilities.com,” said Heather Rosentrater, Avista’s vice president of energy delivery.
Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) leaders reiterate their warning to the community around the risk for carbon monoxide poisoning in outages occur. After November’s windstorm, several calls were made locally for emergency assistance specific to potential poisonings.
“Every time our community has a power outage, we worry that someone will try to stay warm by bringing a fuel-burning appliance inside,” said Dr. Joel McCullough, SRHD health officer. “It doesn’t take too much, or too long, for carbon monoxide to make someone sick or to kill them – and the tragic truth is that it happens too frequently.”
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a poisonous gas that can’t be seen or smelled and can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. It can quickly build up to unsafe levels in enclosed or semi-enclosed areas. When residents are without electricity, barbecue grills and gas generators may seem like they could double as an indoor furnace, but indoors, they can be downright dangerous—neither should be used inside to heat homes or cook.
What to do before a windstorm or outage
- If you depend on medical equipment for life-support, purchase a back-up power supply or arrange to stay with family or friends.
- Register life-sustaining and medical equipment with your utility company.
- Have a safe alternative heat source and supply of fuel. Never burn charcoal or use a generator indoors.
- Consider buying a generator. When installing a generator, follow the instructions carefully. Keep your generator outside and run a cord inside. Don’t connect your generator to main service panels—it’s dangerous! Be sure to place a carbon monoxide detector indoors.
- Assemble a disaster supply kit. Ensure it contains light sticks, flashlights, a battery-powered radio with extra batteries and a wind-up clock.
- Find out who in your area might need special assistance, such as the elderly, disabled, and non-English speaking neighbors.
- Check with your veterinarian for animal care instructions in an emergency situation.
- Know what emergency plans are in place at your workplace, school and day care center.
- Conduct a home safety evaluation to find out which nearby trees could fall in windstorm.
What to do during a windstorm or outage
- Don’t panic. Take quick action to protect yourself and help others.
- If you are indoors, move away from windows or objects that could fall. Go to lower floors in multi-story homes.
- If you are outdoors, move into a building. Avoid downed electric power lines, utility poles and trees.
- If you are driving, pull off the road and stop away from trees. If possible, walk into a safe building. Avoid overpasses, power lines and other hazards.
- Listen to your radio for emergency instructions.
- Turn off lights and electrical appliances except for the refrigerator and freezer. Turn off the stove if you’re cooking when the power goes out, and turn off natural gas appliances.
- Even if it is dark, turn light switches and buttons on lamps or appliances to the “off” position.
- Unplug computers and other sensitive equipment to protect them from possible surges when the power is restored.
- Leave one lamp on so you will know when power is restored. Wait at least 15 minutes after power is restored before turning on other appliances.
- Candles can cause a fire. It’s far better to use battery-operated flashlights or glow sticks for lighting.
- Stay away from downed power lines and sagging trees with broken limbs.
Keep food safe
- Use and store food carefully to prevent foodborne illness when power outages make refrigeration unavailable.
- Use foods first that can spoil most rapidly.
- Keep doors to refrigerators and freezers closed. Your refrigerator’s freezer will keep food frozen for up to a day. A separate fully-loaded freezer will keep food frozen for two days.
- Use an ice chest packed with ice or snow to keep food cold. Buy dry ice to save frozen food. Do not handle dry ice with your bare hands. Use blocks or bags of ice to save refrigerator foods.
- Use caution if storing food outside during winter to keep it cold. The outside temperature varies, especially in the sun. Frozen food may thaw and refrigerator food may become warm enough to grow bacteria. Food stored outside must be secured from contamination by animals.
- If in doubt, throw it out. Throw out meat, seafood, dairy products and cooked food that does not feel cold.
- Never taste suspect food. Even if food looks and smells fine, illness-causing bacteria may be present.
What to do after a windstorm
- Check yourself and those around you for injuries.
- Evacuate damaged buildings. Do not re-enter until declared safe by authorities.
- Call 9-1-1 only to report a life threatening emergency.
- If you smell gas or hear a hissing sound indoors — open windows and leave the building. Turn off the gas source and call your gas company. Do not use matches, candles, open flames or electric switches indoors.
- If the power goes out, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to keep food frozen for up to two days.
- Provide assistance to your neighbors, especially the elderly or disabled.
- Try to make contact with your out-of-area phone contact, but avoid making local telephone calls.
- Monitor your portable or weather radio for instructions or an official “all clear” notice. Radio stations will broadcast what to do, the location of emergency shelters, medical aid stations, and the extent of damage.