The recent Irene disaster reminds us that It’s only been 5 years since one of the biggest storms the Northwest has ever seen. The December 15 windstorm, 2006, did over $350 Million in damage, and claimed 14 lives in Western Washington. That’s half the loss of life that Irene afflicted across the entire Northeast. But our storm didn’t have a name… the US Weather Service asked the public to name it — and 8000 respondents voted to call it the Hanukkah Eve Storm of 2006.
It won’t be long until new winter weather patterns head our way, and with 2011 turning into a La Nina year, we should be thinking about how to weather this winter’s storms.
What can we learn from storms like Irene and Hanu. Eve?
1. Have a disaster kit in the house. 20 gallons of drinking water per person, blankets, batteries, transistor radio, and canned goods or edible dried foods to weather a week without power or water.
2. Look at your trees ahead of time, and review their health. The 2006 event was preceeded by two weeks of intense rain, which softened the root zones and increased the danger of falling. Look for dead branches, rotting or hollow places in trunks, and badly off-kilter trees. Dead branches can be pruned, off-kilter trees can be balanced … but significant hollowness or trunk rot may constitute a hazard tree that needs to be removed. Trees with dense foliage can be made less vulnerable to wind shear through “wind-sailing” — trimming for less wind resistance. Whatever you find … be proactive, because winter storms will be here before you know it.
3. If flooding or storm surges occur, don’t rebuild in the same place. We need more wetlands and coastal habitat for the health and productivity of our entire ecosystem. This is a political issue, and a tough nut to crack because of the money and power behind developers who want to keep their waterfront properties. But we need to be learning that storms are getting bigger, oceans are rising, natural barriers need to be increased, not undermined …. and whether we live in Ocean Shores or Anacortes, we need to consider the impact of tax dollars going to help reimburse developers and insurance companies who unwisely build where nature has already demonstrated that all bets are off.