The time to prepare for winter is now
Central Oregon faced record snowfall last year, and experiencing one of the worst winters in recent memory brought with it a variety of challenges for our community.
Some residents struggled to get supplies or access to services they needed. But we saw a lot of people in the public and private sectors step up to face the challenge.
Our county road department did an amazing job keeping the county-maintained roads clear and passable. These hard-working county employees spent nights and weekends away from their families, working to keep our citizens safe and connected.
High Desert Aggregate and Paving, demonstrating the Central Oregon spirit of neighbors looking out for each other, stepped up in a huge way, clearing non-county maintained roads. Additionally, the sheriff and search and rescue received a record number of calls from people needing basic services and help. There were times when it seemed touch and go, but we made it through.
I wish I was here to tell you that this year's winter was shaping up to be a mild one, but early projections are for a La Niña weather pattern, with colder, wetter weather resulting in more snow that sticks around longer. This early projection data is virtually identical to last year's projections. All of us need to plan and prepare now, so that we are ready for the snowfall, if and when it hits.
There are many things that residents can do to prepare for a severe weather event. Folks that live on non-county maintained roads or extended driveways need to insure that they have a plan to maintain access to their homes. There are number of tools that people can use.
One example is a local road district consisting of an elected board and established fees. A second option is a neighborhood maintenance agreement. Both of these involve neighbors establishing an account to pay for maintenance and plowing and assessing fees. Some contract with a local business so that access can be efficiently maintained. Other groups buy snow plows that can be mounted to the front of trucks and do the work themselves.
If neither of these options is in place, then it is your duty as a citizen to coordinate with your neighbors and have a plan in place. I personally live on a non-county maintained road. My neighbors and I have not formed a formal road district, but we work together and have a plan that in the event of severe snowfall, we have agreed that we will share the cost of keeping our road clear.
It is important to remember that while the county road department does an amazing job keeping our county-maintained roads clear of heavy snow, we do not have the resources to keep private roads and driveways plowed.
It's also critically important that every citizen keeps emergency supplies in their home. The State of Oregon recommends that every Oregonian have a minimum of two weeks of food, water, prescription medication and basic necessities on hand at all times. In addition to these supplies, it is important to have alternative cooking and heating sources.
Please understand that our sheriff's office/search and rescue are not designed or equipped to deliver basic supplies to residents. For people with financial challenges, there are multiple organizations throughout Central Oregon whose mission it is to provide citizens in need with basic supplies. A few of these include NeighborImpact, the Oregon Food Bank, and numerous local churches. Early planning is key to working with these organizations, as their ability to access additional food and supplies is also impacted by severe weather.
Last year, we saw the impact of accumulated snow with roofs collapsing under the extreme snowfall. Snow on your roof can add 20 pounds of weight or more per cubic foot. As a result, a 1,500-square-foot home with 2 feet of snow on its roof could be carrying more than 30,000 pounds of extra weight. This makes it critically important to stay vigilant about keeping your roof clear of snow. In addition to the weight, there is also the possibility of ice dams that create a path for water to enter your home and cause damage to the interior.
Living in Crook County affords us the freedom to enjoy a lifestyle that includes raising livestock and pets. Along with enjoyment comes an added responsibility to provide for these animals, especially in times of extreme weather. When there is snow on the ground for longer periods of time and there are colder temperatures, animals need more food and water. Some pets and livestock are less able to tolerate the extremes of winter and may require additional shelter and heat. These are all things that you need to be thinking about now before the snow begins to fly. In the same way that it is important for you to have adequate supplies for an extended period of time, it is just as important that you have these critical items for your animals.
One great tool that Crook County has in place for the citizens is the emergency contact system. Go to http://www.alertcrookcounty.org to register. By signing up, you will automatically receive emergency information and updates. It is the best way for people in our community to receive the most current info about emergencies in our area. I would encourage every citizen to sign up today.
Crook County staff is going to be actively working to prepare our citizens and employees for the upcoming winter. We are launching an awareness campaign that will include a steady stream of public information and at least one public meeting.
The community meeting will be on Monday, Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. in Courtroom C, located in the Annex building next to the Crook County Juvenile Department. I sure hope to see everyone there.
With a little luck, we will all be sunbathing on our decks in February, but just in case, we need to start the conversation now and start accumulating supplies and finalizing our plans. Early planning will give us the best chance of being prepared for the worst.
Seth Crawford serves as the Crook County Judge. He can be reached at 541-447-6555.