Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Life In A Disaster Zone

Forest fireI recently received a letter that was written by a smoke jumper who is describing conditions of life in an area of Washington State where a disastrous wildfire has turned life upside-down. There are vital lessons to be learned from this information, and I urge everyone to take stock of where you stand in your preparation to survive a disaster. Here's the letter:

Hello All,

We have had many inquires as to how things are going here in the Methow Valley of Washington State in reference to the fires, so I am writing a quick letter to all.

For the last couple of weeks it has been very hot. About 100 degrees every day. Nearly two weeks ago we had an intense lighting storm and multiple fires were started, mostly on public lands. A few days later, VERY strong winds arrived and ultimately all the fires became three large ones, and eventually one large one. The largest in the history of the State of Washington. The fires burned about 200 homes, many outbuildings, vehicles, cattle, horses, etc., and destroyed the electrical distribution system. The fire burned down the valley for a distance of nearly 70 miles, all the way into the Columbia River Valley east of us. We found ourselves without power, telephones, cell phones, or internet service. All the stores and gas stations were closed except for Hanks in Twisp, about 13 miles down the road. It is a large store and the owner had installed back up power years ago.

Needless to say, many people today depend on credit cards and debit cards. Most people do not keep any cash at home. The results were that people could not carry on any transactions.... CASH WAS KING! ....Cars were lined up more than 3 city blocks in Twisp that had the only working gas station. Cash and no out-of-town checks!

It took on the average several hours to get fuel for cars and generators. Gas cans were in high demand! People were trying to borrow cash from those that had it. The local bank was swamped with demands for cash loans and they were working without power. Frustration was everywhere! Not even potable water to drink. People started stealing gas, generators and food.

Several friends lost their homes and I ended up with four additional people living here for the last week. Most only had the clothes they had on their bodies. No identification, drivers licenses, nothing! It is literally a scene from a war zone!

We were very lucky because our portion of the valley is west of where the fires started and the upper of the valley did not burn. Wolf Creek, adjacent to our property, provided water for everything and we had plenty of stored potable water. We also make it a point to have stored fuels, food and cash put away. After a couple of days I pulled the electrical meter from the service and wired our generator into the main panel. We now had well water and things got a lot easier.

Yesterday afternoon, after 8 days, the power was restored with help from throughout the Northwest and the internet was up a couple of hours later. People returned to other places and we found ourselves very tired, but thankful we could offer the support to those less fortunate.

Lessons learned. Be prepared! One never knows what the future will bring. Check your insurance; many had none! We are purchasing a larger generator to keep the house and everything running. By this experience we learned where our weaknesses are and what to do to make life easier for the future if need be.

We are very thank full our blessings, considering many families will have months, maybe years, for their lives to return to normal.