Session will cover what to expect this winter locally and how to best prepare for it

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Heavy snowfall this past winter caused the roof at the Woodgrain Millwork facility to collapse in multiple places. County officials warn residents to remove snow from rooftops before their home or business is damaged.

County preparation for an extreme winter will soon shift to public outreach.

Local leaders are planning a community meeting later this month with plans to inform the public about the forecast for the upcoming winter and how to best prepare should the area receive another onslaught of snowstorms.

"This meeting is open to everyone in the county," said Vicky Ryan, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator with Crook County Health Department, "specifically anyone who would like to receive more information around preparedness and who may have questions about this year's winter weather and what they can do to support themselves, loved ones and neighbors."

Ryan said the meeting will be informational in nature, but will offer people an opportunity to ask questions. It will cover a variety of topics, including how the county plans to support residents in the event of a harsh winter, what the county cannot do, and how people can prepare with an emphasis on road maintenance, snow removal, the importance of having emergency supplies, and knowing who in your family and neighborhood can provide extra help if needed.

"We strongly urge all community members to start thinking now about how you will cope with another year of extreme winter weather," Ryan stated.

Two of the primary issues facing residents, according to emergency personnel, is maintaining roads for emergency vehicle traffic and for the day-to-day needs of residents, and keeping rooftops clear of excessive snow.

"Look closely at removing snow from roof tops early. Don't wait until there is so much it becomes a threat to the structure or is too heavy to remove safely," Ryan said. "If you live in an area with a homeowners association and you are unable to or do not have the equipment to remove the snow from your rooftops, we encourage you to reach out to your board and let them know you need some assistance."

According to county data, structures built in Central Oregon with building permits are designed to handle 25 pounds per square foot, which equates to about 20 inches of snow. Older structures, built before the adoption of building codes (late 1960s and earlier), may not meet this minimum standard. Manufactured homes are designed to carry 30 pounds per square foot, or about 2 feet of snow, although flat roofs are more of a concern, because they tend to hold more snow moisture.

The combination of ice, ice dams, packed snow and fresh snow will place an increasing load limit on most roofs in the county, officials added, and rainfall on top of snow can add a significant amount of weight to a roof rapidly.

To ensure residents can keep up with mounting snow, emergency preparedness leaders recommend getting a roof rake early, before the stores run out. Ryan points out that there are several types available that are very effective, depending on style of home and what best fits your needs.

"The Crook County Library will have roof rakes to check out this winter," she added.

County leaders also stress that residents keep a plentiful supply of emergency items, including food and water.

"The state standard is two weeks, however we encourage everyone to maintain an emergency supply of 30 days," Ryan said. "This includes food, water (1 gallon per person per day), prescription medications, alternate heating source, alternate cooking source and warm winter clothing."

So far, the upcoming public meeting is the only one county officials have scheduled, although others may follow throughout the beginning of the winter if they are warranted.

"It is our intent to support the preparedness of the entire county so that residents don't encounter the challenges and barriers they were faced with last winter with the surprising record snow fall," Ryan said.

Crook County officials will be holding a public meeting on winter weather awareness and preparedness on Monday, Nov. 20 at 6 p.m., in the Crook County Courtroom C, located at 320 NE Court St.

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