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Cascade Locks assesses response to ice storm

January 25, 2012

A fire engine generator connected to a copier was among the unusual steps taken in Cascade Locks Thursday to get word to the community about the power outage.

Fire department volunteers, public works and City Light employees and spouses took flyers door-to-door last week to make sure as many community members as possible had details about the outage.

One goal was to spread the word about the warming shelters set up by the county and Red Cross in Hood River that were available to Cascade Locks residents facing a night without electricity.

If the power goes out again, the fire hall will be the basic community resource, announced Mayor Lance Masters.

"We are fortunate as a community to have that fire station that has backup power, and it will be the point of contact for information," he said.

Citizens can continue to call the following number for updates in case of weather-related problems: 541-374-8510.

In last week's storms, "Our volunteers and our partners in the community are really the ones who came through for the community," said Masters. He and councilors Jeff Helfrich and Mark Storm also went to the fire hall to help.

"It was a very coordinated effort by everyone who was there," Helfrich said.

"This shows how isolated we can be once we lose one of our creature comforts such as water or power," Helfrich said.

"I think we're going to learn a lot about this," said Storm, thanking fire volunteers, city staff and Hood River County.

"It's good to see where we're at," in terms of readiness, Storm said. "There's a lot of things we can learn from."

Meanwhile, the city is looking ahead to a Feb. 9 meeting at 1:30 with an emergency planning consultant. Interim City Manager Paul Koch said the county informed him that the federal government will cover the cost of the consultant.

"This comes at a really good time for us," Koch said.

Masters gave the following description of last week's response by staff and volunteers:

On Thursday fire volunteers contacted Karl Tesch, Hood River county emergency services manager, and City Light line workers for a report. They said the city's main line from Hood River had catastrophic damage to the structures that hold up the lines Thursday. On that day, the community experienced about 90 minutes of outage, restored in time for the public meeting on the budget for 2012-13.

Meanwhile crews connected the city to a BPA backup line.

Friday's freezing rain caused trees to fall, and damage to a backup line support structure, which turned off electricity on Saturday morning.

Council Members Jeff Helfrich, Mark Storm and Masters went to the fire station to help coordinate the response.

"We were met there by 10 volunteers who were there to help answer calls and help the community," Masters said.

Fire officer Jess Zerfing formulated a fire department staffing plan to cover the next 48 hours.

Public works employees were meanwhile checking on water and sewer service, and Tracy Huff, City Light superintendent, gave Masters regular updates on the anticipated 24-hour outage.

"We contacted Hood River County - they offered transportation to warming stations in Hood River," Masters said.

"By nighttime, we decided we ought to get to people in their homes; public works employees and spouses went door to door, because at that point we knew we were likely to go through the night without power," added Masters.

Ultimately, power did come back on at 6:30 a.m., and Huff called the mayor to say it was anticipated it would stay up, and was "not just a blip," Masters said.

"Currently we remain on backup line, as there has just been not enough time to repair all the damage earlier this week to the main line."

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