Fifty years ago this Friday, a devastating windstorm ravaged the West Coast from Crescent City, California to Vancouver, B.C. The Columbus Day Storm of October 12, 1962 caused 46 deaths (two in Thurston County), blew down more than 11 billion board feet of timber, and caused $280 million in damages (about $4 billion in 2012 dollars). While a weather event of this magnitude is rare, local emergency managers remind residents that Thurston County has been declared a federal disaster area 23 times since 1962. -30-
"What better way to commemorate the Columbus Day Storm than to prepare for disasters of all kinds," says Thurston County Emergency Manager Kathy Estes.
Floods or winter storms can be so overwhelming that demand often exceeds available resources, leaving people on their own for days before outside help arrives. "That's why it's critical," says Estes, "to be prepared in our homes, workplaces or wherever we may be when disaster strikes." Preparedness tips include:
-- Purchase national flood insurance. While standard homeowner's insurance almost never covers flood damage, National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies, available through most insurance companies, pay claims whether or not a federal disaster is declared. Through mitigation and preparedness actions, the county has earned a 25% discount for flood insurance rates available to residents of unincorporated Thurston County. This translates into an average annual savings of $238 per property. Flood insurance is also available to renters and can cover nonresidential buildings such as farm and commercial buildings. NFIP will also cover structures that have been previously flooded. Estes urges citizens who wish to purchase flood insurance to do so immediately as there is a 30-day waiting period after the first payment is made before the policy is effective. Information is available at 1-800-638-6620 or at www.floodsmart.gov
-- Preparing for three days will help you make it through many of the disasters you'll face in the Puget Sound region, including major storms and even small earthquakes. However, to make it through a major catastrophe like last year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan, you'll need to be prepared for longer--at least seven to 10 days.
-- Have a family emergency plan with meeting places and an out of area contact.
-- Assemble a supply kit that includes prescription medications, flashlight, battery-powered radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, non-perishable food, and water,one gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation.
-- Be prepared to help each other. Take a first aid class, plan ahead with your neighbors, co-workers and friends so that you're ready to take care of each other immediately following the disaster.
For a wealth of preparedness information, visit the free Emergency Preparedness Expo on Saturday, October 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Saint Martin's University, Marcus Pavilion and Worthington Conference Center, 5300 Pacific Avenue in Lacey. Emergency preparedness information is also available at the county's Emergency Management website at www.co.thurston.wa.us/em