Friday, February 26, 2016

In harm’s way after the fire

By Elizabeth Morgan

Clearwater County’s Emergency Management team, under the direction of Don Gardner, advised those residing along Orofino Creek, near the area burned in the Orofino-area Municipal Fire this past year, of some potential risks in the fire’s aftermath.

Of the 22 people who attended the public meeting Feb. 22, more than half were officials from the city and county, the National Weather Service out of Missoula, MT, and a field officer from the Bureau of Homeland Security. 

Issues of concern

Hydrologist Ray Nickless of Missoula’s National Weather Service described the patterns he’s noted in regions affected by wildfires. He shared a couple of fairly recent videos illustrating the intensity of debris flows and flash floods near Salmon and Helena, MT, where wildfires had burned two to three years ago.

As jaws dropped and eyebrows were raised, Nickless assured his audience that the acreage we lost in last summer’s fire was much smaller than those in the videos. 

Geological and terrain studies performed by both the Corps of Engineers and the Forest Service illustrated areas where the fire had burned the hottest, and its impact on the ground.

Aerial maps indicated the draws and drainages along the steep hillside which flow toward Orofino Creek which were of particular concern.

“Presently,” said Nickless, “even though there are many dead trees along the hillside, their roots are still holding the soil. We will be more watchful once those roots begin to decompose in the next couple of years when the potential for harm is greater.

Still, this winter’s precipitation and recent wet weather isn’t as threatening as it might seem, and still not bad as spring rains continue in April and May. Nickless predicts the greatest potential danger in the months of July and August, when our area experiences torrential downpours from thunderstorms which seem to come from out of the blue.

A heavy amount of precipitation within a short period of time is something we need to watch, such as those thunderstorms producing one-half inch or more of rain within 30 minutes to an hour’s time. 

Landslide vs. mudslide, debris flows, flash floods

Landslides are slow to evolve. Signs of trees bending, telephone poles, retaining walls or fences leaning are another indicator. Watch for new cracks or unusual bulges in the ground.

Mudslides, debris flows, and flash floods can transpire much faster. These are harder to predict and often occur with little warning.

By planning ahead, and knowing ahead of time how and where to access the heavy machinery, we can clear debris from the creek if needed. It would be much easier to clear than if there were to be a mudslide. If debris were to lodge against the bridge or take it out, the situation becomes much worse.

What the city and county are doing

“As a county and city we felt it important to let you know what we know,” said Gardner. 

Having done his homework, Gardner will apply for the F MAG (Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant) from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for $400,000. The application’s closing deadline is March 10.

“It will take a couple of months to be approved and a few months beyond that to receive the money,” Gardner explained. “We’re looking toward the fall, before we have the funds. Then we’ll restore, reforest, and replant, then worry about weeds, as they love that open ground.”

Traditionally, government assistance is designated for roads, bridges, courthouses, etc. “This is one of those rare grants which is actually permitted to be spent on private lands,” assured Gardner.

“From my perspective, I see no issues this winter,” said Gardner. “The roots are still intact, and soon new grasses and growth will help stabilize the hillside. Later, this summer, there will be some concern, but next year, next summer, we’re going to have to be vigilant. The good thing is we have time to think about how to deal with it.”

For now, NOAA Weather Radios were distributed to those at the greatest risk for weather coverage and severe storm alerts available 24/7.

The radio helps to keep people informed of severe storms in neighboring counties and can sometimes send a warning three-five hours ahead of the storm. Still for some systems it may only be 45 minutes. But 45 minutes still allows for time to evacuate. 

If you were unable to attend but live in an area at risk, please contact Don Gardner at the Clearwater County Office of Emergency Management at 2200 Michigan Ave. or call (208) 476-4064. 

What individuals can do…before

Be aware of your surroundings.

Have a plan before it is needed.

Inform neighbors of any potential hazards.

Notify the sheriff’s office where and with whom (contact number) you are staying, should it be necessary to self-evacuate.

Help a neighbor who may need special assistance.

Stay alert and awake. Many fatalities occur at night, when people are sleeping.

And after…

Plant trees, grasses and shrubs to help stabilize the soil.

Trees which have been burned and are not being harvested may be used by placing them horizontally on the hillside to catch or impede the speed of debris and rocks being washed down.

A word of caution to homeowners: “Flood insurance does not cover mud slides.”

Having a plan doesn’t always guarantee that things will go the way we would like them to, but it does make us think beforehand and allow extra time to prepare. Make and review your plan with your family and loved ones at least once a year.

Last summer, we watched half of our town go up in smoke, with nary a warning. Let’s use this information and this time to prepare whatever and wherever we can. Being ready and alert will make all the difference.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Summer fire season is just around the corner—are you ready?

By Janet Boyer

Believe it or not, the summer fire season is just around the corner. Sunnyside Rural Fire District is hosting a “Firewise” presentation for the area residents on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 6:30 p.m., at the Sunnyside Fire Station.

Kip Kemak, Fire Prevention and Mitigation Specialist for the Nez Perce Tribe, will explain how you can prepare your home to better withstand a wildfire in your neighborhood.

There are many simple, effective steps you can take this spring to prepare your home before it is in danger. 

One of the most effective ways to reduce your risk during a wildfire is to reduce the level of flammable vegetation surrounding your home. This can also increase the moisture content of the remaining vegetation.

You will learn how to keep your home safer during fire season while still retaining its rural appearance.

Sunnyside Fire Station is located at about mile marker 7 on the Cavendish Highway.

If you have any questions, please contact Janet Boyer, Sunnyside Firewise Coordinator, at 208-476-0102, or Rich Hull, Fire Chief, at 208-827-0127.

Municipal Fire Damage meeting Feb. 22

Another fire meeting, this time covering the Municipal Fire that hit the Orofino area last summer, will be held Monday, Feb. 22, 6 p.m. at Orofino City Hall (217 1st St.)

The purpose of this meeting is to share with the public the results of a study done by the Corps of Engineers and Forest Service BEAR team. These studies looked at the damage done by the 2015 fire and the possible impacts.

They will discuss the possible landslide and debris flows along Orofino Creek and what the city and county are doing in relationship to the risk. They will also share what individuals can do.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Day blog special - "Still the one"

By Lynette Codr, daughter of Clearwater Tribune owner Cloann McNall

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I have been thinking about what I know, now, about love at the age of 61. It is much different from what I thought I knew on my wedding day. But I guess if I had lived to be 61 years old and not learned a few things about life and love along the way, then I would be in serious trouble.

If I were able to have a conversation with the person who coined the phrase “they fell in love, got married and lived happily ever after,” I would ask why she left out so much of what happens between “fell in love” and “happily ever after.” It’s not fair to all the young people looking for that fairy tale love.

I say young people, because I, like most people my age, understand all too well, that life and love is no fairy tale. And I say this with no cynicism; though I am very much a realist – no rose-colored glasses here. Besides, is reality such a bad thing?

My husband and I have been married for over 40 years. As I think about the young couple standing at the altar, I am amazed at everything that we didn’t know about the vow to stand by each other “for better or for worse.” But how could we? It takes years, decades, and a lifetime to start to comprehend the meaning of those words.

Where is the marriage manual telling how to handle and work through the “for worse” days of a marriage? Forget about the “for better,” that always takes care of itself. 

Not many of us enter marriage thinking, “this is going to be a lot of really hard work.” But committed love takes lots and lots of work. We each bring our “best self” to the altar on our wedding day. 

Being the flawed, imperfect beings that we are, eventually our faults and shortcomings make their appearance in our marriage. Absolutely uninvited, I might add. And of course, life shows up to throw its curve balls, adding more work to the art of maintaining a good marriage.

Years ago there was a book authored by Gail Sheehy entitled “Passages.” It chronicled the different stages we each pass through during our lifetime. There should be a book entitled “The Seasons of a Marriage.” I say seasons because changes in a marriage don’t tend to follow a linear path and, like seasons, those changes ebb and flow.

Your marriage can be in the lovely season of “summer,” and then you wake up one day to find that you are now facing the “winter” of marriage. The right environment is an absolute to lay down strong roots. A place of warmth and light is in order to encourage the growth of the lovely fruits of each. Close attention to feeding and watering must be constant, to ensure that those fruits don’t wither away.

There are times that the gardener may need to cut back the rose bush in order for the plant to rebuild and strengthen itself. Like the rose bush, your marriage may go through a severe pruning and will need time to rebuild, renew and strengthen the “roots” of its love.

You may think that your efforts are futile, that you will never see another “spring” or “summer” for your marriage. Be vigilant and be patient. With time, lots of tender loving care, much heartfelt prayer, and the healing salve of Divine intervention, a marriage can become stronger than ever imagined.

So to my Valentine, “You’re still the one that makes me strong, still the one I want to take along. We’re still having fun, and you’re still the one.” – Johanna and John Hall

Friday, February 5, 2016

Saturday urgent care opens this Saturday at CVHC

Beginning this Saturday, Feb. 5, Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics will offer an urgent care service open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Patients will check in at the ER entrance but will be seen as a clinic patient. 

“We are very excited to offer this service to the community,” says Nick Box, PA-C. “We know that everyone is busy and it can be difficult to get off work during the day to get you or your child in for that sniffly nose or possible sports injury.

“One way that CVHC has tried to help that issue is with the evening clinics, offered on Mondays and Thursdays; however, this still may not work for parents with kids in sports or other after school activities. For that reason we are now offering a weekend option,” says Box. 

“Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics strives to offer quality healthcare close to home. We know that sicknesses don’t follow the nine to five hours of typical clinics, so we decided to offer a Saturday urgent care so that our patients won’t have to travel the river road to Lewiston when they just can’t wait until Monday to get in to see their doctor,” says Vicky Petersen, Director of Physician Services. 

Common reasons to visit Urgent Care include colds, earaches, minor upper respiratory infections, sprains, strains, and minor athletic injuries. 

“Should you present to the urgent care with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, stroke symptoms such as weakness, sudden vision changes, confusion or face numbness, that will be still be an emergency room visit, as those symptoms are more critical than what urgent care is designed for,” says Box. 

Patients will check-in for urgent care at the ER entrance. “By offering the option for patients to be seen in an Urgent Care we will be able to save them money since they won’t have to be admitted to the ER for an ear infection, etc. We feel our community really deserves the convenience and money saving opportunities an urgent care will offer,” says Box. 

CVHC is a certified Patient Centered Medical Home and the principles of a Medical Home include team work between providers, mid-levels (Physician’s Assistants and Nurse Practitioners) and outside specialists, premium quality and safety, enhanced access to care and affordable care.

“As we strive fully embrace the principles of the Medical Home model providing increased access to care becomes very important and adding Urgent Care to our list of services will help us continue to do that,” explains Box.

The urgent care will be on a first come, first served basis. For more information please call 208-476-4555.