Our Opinion: Remember the three P's
As every resident of northwest Oregon is well aware, weather can be frustrating.
Weather can be beyond frustrating, in fact — it can be dangerous. We won't soon forget the blast of strong, warm easterly winds last September that fueled Oregon's worst-ever wildfire season. We likely won't soon forget the deep freeze on Valentine Day's weekend, either.
Snow and ice may be beautiful to look at, but we hardly need to tell you that they can damage trees and property, render roads impassable, and knock out power for hours or even days on end.
Now, being without power is a serious problem, especially when it's biting cold outside. So much of modern life depends on electricity, and most homes are heated by electric power. Even water, while a separate utility, depends on power. In hard-hit West Linn, the city government actually asked residents to conserve water because the power outage affected the city's water infrastructure.
But we live in the Pacific Northwest, where the threat of a major earthquake that changes our lives forever is ever-present. We know we should be prepared at all times for a power outage, or worse.
Stocking up can be difficult and stressful, not to mention expensive. But the good news is that it's not an investment that will only pay dividends if the worst happens.
Canned foods are great when the power is out — whether because of the "Big One" or a snowstorm or a drunken driver crashing into a power pole in your neighborhood — or for when you're tired and harried and just need to get some food on the table.
Bottled water is a godsend when there's no running water, or when your home is under a boil-water advisory, but it also comes in handy when you're working in the yard, going for a long walk or shooting hoops at the park.
Flashlights sure are important when the lights won't come on and it's too dark to see, but they're also useful when you're rooting around in your attic or crawlspace or trying to get a better look at something in your car engine.
Preparedness should be part of how we live our lives. You will never regret being prepared.
We should also know our limits. While there are times when we have to leave our homes for essential goods or to perform essential jobs, as we should all know after living with COVID-19 in our community for the past year: We don't have to go out quite as often as we might think.
Icy road conditions are inherently unsafe, and every time we have a blast of winter weather, we see vehicles crashing into one another, sliding off the road, and being illegally ditched by drivers who realize — too late — that they can't brave the conditions after all. It doesn't help that in this winter, with closures and cancellations due to the coronavirus and money being tight for many, snow tires may not been flying off the shelves.
When the roads are bad, whenever possible, we should stay home. It's not a matter of ability, it's a matter of prudence. When we make prudent choices, we are keeping ourselves and others safe as well.
Many of us were frustrated to see our planned Valentine's Day excursions put on ice. The forecast originally pointed toward warming and melting Saturday night into Sunday. Instead, the warming and melting didn't really begin until Monday morning, leaving the lovelorn forlorn as date night was canceled.
For hundreds of thousands of people in the region, however, not being able to pick up a dozen roses or share a pot of fondue was the least of their worries. Many, especially in hillier areas, lost power sometime during the weekend, and local utility companies haven't been able to give clear answers as to when power would be restored.
In northwest Oregon, we don't get major winter storms like this very often, and so our public works and utility crews don't have the same amount of equipment as their counterparts in the Midwest or New England do. It takes longer to clear and de-ice roads and sidewalks. It may take longer to restore power — not that icing conditions are easy for utility workers anywhere to deal with.
Utility companies' struggles to provide accurate, up-to-the-minute projections for restoring power aren't for lack of effort. County and city workers' difficulties in clearing roadways besieged by sleet, snow, freezing rain, fallen power lines, toppled trees and sloughed-off crusts of ice don't mean they aren't trying.
As frustrating as it is to be without power, or to not be able to travel, or to have to cancel plans, we must remember to be patient. Millions of people were affected by this winter storm. Thousands of workers are putting in long, grueling hours to clear roads and restore power. It simply takes time to dig out.
And when it comes to the weather, we have to acknowledge the role that Mother Nature plays as well. The best weapons against wildfires are rain, cool air and still winds. A winter storm isn't ended by linemen or snowplows, it's ended by warmer, drier weather.
This storm caught many of us flat-footed. Let's consider it a reminder to exercise these three P's: preparedness, prudence and patience.
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