Lessons from the Storm of 2016

In December of 2016, a rash of winter weather swept across Oregon, bringing thick bouts of freezing rain and snow to Lane County. The ice piled onto roads, trees and power lines causing massive power outages and hazardous road conditions. Tens of thousands of people were without lights or heating and many didn’t have a way to leave their homes with trees and wires blocking off roads.

Search and Rescue operations center.

To help out, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office set up a special call center to service people who were going days and in some cases a week without any power or access to essentials. Search and Rescue members and reserve deputies were tasked with helping people who were low on supplies or weren’t able to safely restock. We would also clear debris from the roads we traveled on to make them passable.

Partially blocked roads following the storm















There are several things I gained from what I saw on these assignments that are pertinent for everyone.

  • Three days of supplies is a MINIMUM
    • You could be without power for days if not weeks depending on the type of area that you live in and what kind of disaster has hit. Consider your need for heating, power, food, water, electronics and medical supplies. You should have a secondary source of heat for your home in case of cold conditions outside. Otherwise, make sure you have warm clothing to help you stay comfortable. You will also need food and water for an extended period of time. You can often buy dry packaged meals and non perishable items wholesale.
  • Keep important phone numbers close.
    • Who you gonna call? Not the Ghost Busters. Have numbers for Police/Fire dispatch, utility companies and close friends and family written down and easily accessible.
  • Follow your local news sources and government social media and web pages.
    • When disaster strikes, these sources will list the locations of shelters and other hubs for people who need assistance. Knowing where these are can help when your home runs out of supplies, or if you can’t return home when a disaster cuts off means of transportation.
  • Have a means to clear your area.
    • Severe weather means falling trees and other debris. Several of the roads I traveled while making supply drops had branches or trees completely or partially blocking the way and needed a chainsaw to clear out. Of course, many people will think that public works crews will get rid of the problem. But in a disaster, emergency and utility crews will have a prioritized task list in their response, and your personal property may not be high on the list. Also, are responsible for clearing debris from your personal property. You may need to help your neighborhood by clearing out your street to help you and your neighbors travel. You never know how long it will be before crews are able to start servicing your area. A shovel should be the start of your list of tools along with a handsaw. If you live in an area with large trees, a chainsaw and extra fuel should also be a consideration.
  • Have a plan for your family.
    • Schools will often be closed or delayed after severe weather. What are your kids going to do if they don’t have class and the power is out? There’s a chance that you will still need to go to work if school is cancelled.
  • Prep your vehicle
    • Your car needs to be ready for the weather. Make sure you have the tires you need to get through the rough seasons. An ice scraper should be within reach to clear your windshield and windows. You should also have a go bag with supplies to make it home if you’re vehicle is rendered in operable. You should also keep a blanket in case you’re snowed in but don’t want to leave the protection of your car.
    • In snow, keep chains and a bag of cat litter or grave; in your car at all times even when you think you won’t need it.
The Search and Rescue truck