The only difference between adventure and disaster is preparedness.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Stormy Weather Forecast

The National Weather Service (NWS) Portland is forecasting severe weather over the next 2-3 days (January 1-3). A chronological synopsis of events includes:

  • A low pressure system will bring warm air into the area early Thursday morning. This low pressure system will bring strong winds and heavy rain. Temperatures could get into the 50's.
  • A second low pressure system will bring a second round of strong winds and cold air to the area on Thursday night. This second system will bring 1-3 inches of snow above 500 feet with possible snow on the valley floor by Friday morning.
  • It is possible we will receive 6-7 inches of rain in the coastal range and 1-3 inches of rain on the valley floor from these two systems.
  • River and small stream flooding is to be expected especially at the coast. The Cowlitz River is expected to reach flood stage on Friday morning cresting at 23 ft.

Click on the following links to get the specific NWS information:

Flood Watch

High Wind Weather Statement

If you have any questions please contact me or visit the NWS website at

Monday, December 29, 2008

Businesses Should Report Economic Losses

We have been fortunate that the recent snow storm has not caused a significant amount of reported damage throughout Cowlitz County; however, because of the timing of the storm, the economic losses could be relatively high. One of the types of disaster assistance programs that is offered by the Small Business Association involves economic injury or loss. In order for the State of Washington to qualify for this type of assistance program, we need businesses to substantiate their estimated economic losses during this storm. Please fill out the form on the right side tool bar and fax it to the Cowlitz County Department of Emergency Management at 360-577-3009 by 5:00 p.m. on January 15th, 2009. We will compile the data and provide it to Washington State. Completing this worksheet does not obligate you to apply for an SBA loan. It merely quantifies the economic impact to businesses by this weather event and allows the Governor to make a request for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans for those businesses that need and want it. Following the submission of our local data to the State of Washington in February, we will provide updated information here on the blog and website should disaster assistance become available locally. We will also attempt direct contact with each of the submitting agencies regarding next steps if SBA assistance is granted.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Road Closure Notice

The Cowlitz County Dept. of Public Works will close Abernathy Road from Ocean Beach Hwy to McAdams to all traffic immediately due to weather related issues. A detour route is available by traveling from Ocean Beach Hwy to Bunker Hill to McAdams.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More snow on the horizon....

Here’s the latest from the National Weather Service:

A low pressure system is coming in from the Pacific and bringing with it warmer temperatures, eventually.
Wednesday AM: Snow showers on the valley floor of 1-2” and 3-4” above 500 feet.
Wednesday PM: Brief rain, then back to snow for Wednesday evening, another 1-2” possible on the valley floor and 4-8” above 500 feet. Highs in the low 30’s. Lows in the upper 20’s.
Thursday: Possible snow showers about 500 feet. Highs in the 30’s. Low of 25.
Friday: Temperatures will begin to rise, rain possible. Highs in the 40’s.
Saturday: New, mild pattern is emerging bringing temperatures in the 40’s and rain.

There is no concern at this time for river flooding, only for urban flooding due to snow melt.

How NOT to get rid of snow

Man melting snow with blowtorch ignites home
He wanted to clear back porch, instead he's got $30,000 in damage

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - Fire officials in New Bedford, Mass., say a man using a blowtorch to melt ice on his back porch ended up setting his house on fire, causing up to $30,000 in damage.
Fire Capt. Scott Kruger tells The Standard-Times of New Bedford that no on was injured during Monday's incident at the three-story home.
Kruger says the man was using a torch hooked up to a 20-pound propane cylinder. He got too close to the building's wood frame and ignited the vinyl siding. The fire quickly spread into the building's second- and third-floor apartments.
It took 25 firefighters to subdue the blaze that damaged bedrooms in the upstairs units, and caused damage to the structure and wiring.
The homeowner will not be charged.
(generalized stupidity is not yet a criminal offense, sadly)

Season's Greetings from DEM

Weather-wise, it should be a relatively quiet day. Tomorrow, however, looks a little more hectic. We will have a weather briefing at 2:00pm today and will share the findings this afternoon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dashing Through the Snow...or Ice...

This forecast is from the National Weather Service at 3:50pm:

A WINTER STORM WATCH is in effect for snow and freezing rain for WEDNESDAY MORNING through WEDNESDAY EVENING. Another low pressure system is expected to drop southeast into the Pacific Northwest Wednesday and Wednesday night. A relatively cold air mass will be in place ahead of this system bringing the chance for low elevation snow and freezing rain. At this time there is considerable uncertainty as to how cold the air will be ahead of the storm in the lower valleys. It appears the precipitation would start out as snow Wednesday and change to freezing rain by Wednesday evening. Although it is not certain, there is a potential for significant accumulations of snow or freezing rain Wednesday afternoon and evening. If the track of the storm is just a little further north than expected it is also possible that the precipitation could quickly change over to rain Wednesday.

Latest Forecast

Monday afternoon: Snow showers, high of 33 and cloudy. Total daytime snow accumulation of 1-2" possible.

Monday night: A 30 percent chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 25. Calm wind. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Tuesday: A 50 percent chance of snow showers. Cloudy, with a high near 34. South wind around 6 mph. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Tuesday Night: Snow likely. Cloudy, with a low around 27. Southeast wind around 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Again, please do not travel unless it is absolutely necessary!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

O (NO!) Christmas Tree

The U.S. Fire Administration posted a video on their blog which illustrates the startling difference between watered and dry Christmas trees when it comes to fire. The video can be found at

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland

So, if you haven't noticied, it's snowing! Join us on our recent photographic journey, won't you? The latest forecast indicates that we may be looking at freezing rain later this afternoon, with a return to snow flurries in the evening. Freezing rain is treacherous business, we advise you to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Fire is So Delightful....

Ahhh, fires CAN be so delightful. Just make sure to abide by these fire safety rules:

*If you use fireplaces or wood burning stoves, burn only well-seasoned wood. Don’t burn trash, newspapers, cardboard boxes, building lumber, engineered woods, pressed boards, wrapping paper, plywood, Christmas trees or similar items; they burn unevenly, may contain toxins and increase the risk of uncontrolled fires.
*Keep young children away from working wood stoves and fireplaces to avoid burn injuries. *Never leave a fireplace unattended, especially while you are sleeping.
*Make sure wood stoves are properly vented.
*Have a fire extinguisher readily available and know how to properly use it. If the fire is bigger than you are, however, it’s probably too big to put out with an extinguisher.
*Never use an oven or range — gas or electric — to heat your home. The flame can overheat and ignite nearby materials.
*Turn off space heaters before leaving a room or going to sleep. Supervise children and pets at all times when a portable space heater is on.
*Keep all flammable objects at least 3 feet from space heaters.
*Stock up on batteries, flashlights, portable radios, canned foods, manual can openers, bottled water and blankets.
*Use flashlights for emergency lighting rather than candles.
*Residents who lose power at home or who need extra heat should never use charcoal barbecues, propane heaters, unvented gas heaters or gasoline-powered machinery such as generators, indoors or in garages or carports. It is also not safe to use these devices too close to windows or air intakes. Doing so may release carbon monoxide, an odorless, invisible gas that can kill a person within minutes.
For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning and prevention, go to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Web site at

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!!

Cowlitz County DEM and a few agencies listened in on the National Weather Service briefing this morning. In summary:

* A fairly complicated weather pattern will begin overnight
* Cowlitz County and Southwest Washington will get much more activity than occurred last weekend
* Snow is expected to start falling in the valley around 4 a.m.
* Valley can expect 2-6" throughout the day on Wednesday
* During the afternoon Wednesday, it is possible for pockets of freezing rain to occur
* The arctic cold air mass will take over by Wednesday evening and precipitation should be mainly snow again
* Temperatures will decline once again on Thursday and precipitation (snow) will diminish
* The temperatures on Wednesday will be in the 30’s; temps Thurs-Sat will be highs of 20’s, lows in the teens
For the weekend:
* Another system in store for late Saturday/early Sunday
* This appears to be mainly a snow event
* The timing and type of precipitation (freezing rain, snow, sleet) is too preliminary to predict with accuracy at this time

It's a good time to stay indoors and off the roads. Please monitor the weather conditions closely over the next couple of days because the dynamics of this particular storm can change very rapidly. Be prepared for snow and/or freezing rain Wednesday/Thursday and bitterly cold temperatures Thursday through Saturday.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

We just concluded a rather ominous conference with the National Weather Service. It looks like snow and bitterly cold temperatures are coming our way. The latest forecast is below:
Friday Afternoon: Rain. High near 42. Windy, with a southwest wind around 30 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.Tonight: Rain showers before 10pm, then rain and snow showers. Snow level 600 feet. Low around 34. Breezy, with a west northwest wind between 18 and 25 mph, with gusts as high as 44 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Saturday: Rain showers. Snow level 900 feet. High near 40. West wind between 13 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.Saturday Night: Rain and snow showers, becoming all snow after 10pm. Low around 33. Southeast wind around 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%.Sunday: Snow likely. Cloudy, with a high near 33. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.
Sunday Night: A 30 percent chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 17.
Monday: A 20 percent chance of snow showers. Partly cloudy, with a high near 25. Monday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 13.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Weather Outside is Frightful....

---from Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency---

We received a Special Weather Statement from the National Weather Service this morning which outlines the anticipated cold weather coming to the Pacific Northwest this weekend. It appears that we will be experiencing some very cold temperatures and perhaps even see some snow. Regardless of whether the weather predictions come fully true for this weekend, this is a good reminder to begin preparing your homes so that you are ready for a true cold snap.

Preparedness activities should include:

*Protecting your vulnerable plants through covering or bringing them indoors.
*Paying attention to your pets that spend time outside.
*Ensuring that your car is ready with chains and a 72-hour kit should you find yourself stranded or stuck.
*Dressing warmly for the weather (even if you're heading out for a short trip).

In our often mild climate, don't get caught unprepared for the next good winter storm. And remember to consider "who depends on you" as you prepare. With animals, small children or others who need additional assistance, remember they rely on you to be ready!

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's That Time Again

No...not time for Santa to come down the chimney. It's time for the annual Emergency Community Notification System test. On December 17th at 9:15 a.m., some residents in the Mint Valley area of Longview will receive a test phone call from the Emergency Community Notification System (ECNS). ECNS is an automated call that originates from our office with a pre-recorded message to a specified geographic area. This technology could be used in the event of hazardous materials releases, volcanic activity, nearby criminal activity or any event that poses an imminent danger to the health or safety of local citizens. Residents are asked to allow the 35-second message to play through completely. The public's cooperation is requested so that the system can be tested and adjusted properly to reach optimal performance.
So, to reiterate, if you receive an automated call regarding the testing of the ECNS, please do not panic, it is only a test. To make the experience more enjoyable for the populace that will be receiving our call, the voice will be the dulcet tones of our very own director, Grover Laseke, not a robot voice. We aim to please here at the Department of Emergency Management. As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding the test, please contact us at 577-3130 or at

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Deck the Halls...Safely!

Have a safe and happy holiday season by following these safety tips:

· When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
· When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green; needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles (watch "A Christmas Story" for a visual demonstration).
· When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.

· Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards.
· Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets.
· Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord (for a lesson on what not to do, I recommend viewing "Christmas Vacation" starring Chevy Chase).
· Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted. Or just return your metallic tree to 1961 where it belongs.
· Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples, not nails or tacks, to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
· Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
· For added electric-shock protection, plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician (not your cousin-in-law Darryl).
· Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
· Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
· In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
· Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair." Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.

· Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from anyone who might find them tempting to ingest.
· Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
· Have your chimney inspected every year.
· Install a carbon monoxide detector as an extra precaution.

Most tips courtesy of US Consumer Products Safety Commission, others were embellished by staff.

Monday, December 1, 2008

How bad will the next flood be? That could be up to you!

--Excerpt from Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency blog--
“Floods are acts of God, but flood damages are acts of man”. This quote, courtesy of former King County Emergency Management Director Eric Holdeman, is only partly true, since removing water-absorbing surfaces from river basins and adding roads and buildings to floodplains can add to flood waters. But it’s absolutely true that the decisions that we make about where we live, work, and develop will be the determining factor in how our community is impacted by the next flood. We can choose not to develop in a flood-prone area. Yes, riverfront properties are the sites for many dream homes but what’s the long term price homeowners will pay? For folks who already live in a flood-prone area you can ensure that your living space is up at a safe elevation. You can also build structures that are made out of durable and water resistant materials so that they flood safely. The Washington State Department of Ecology wrote an excellent guide, Living With the River, which has more essential information that can help you make smart choices to reduce flood risks.Do you know what the flooding risk is where you live, work, and travel? If you live near a waterway (usually within a quarter of a mile) you might be at risk of flooding. You also need to determine how you’ll protect your home and your family from the next flood event. If you need them, where will you get sandbags? Home improvement stores and other local vendors often carry sandbags. During flood events, we’ll let you know where to pick up sandbags through this blog or through news releases. If your home could take on water in floods, you should also consider having sandbags that are ready to go. More information about responding to floods is available on this Washington State Emergency Management Division website.