Winter’s here, so be prepared

Assuming weather forecasters were correct, Christmas 2009 came off without a major hitch, which was a stark contrast to last year’s freezing, snowy Christmas week.

In fact, the winter of 2008 saw several snowstorms and went down as one of the coldest, snowiest on record. To date, this winter has been mild by comparison: No significant snow, only a few scattered power outages lasting not more than several hours, and no weather-related school cancellations.

Technically, of course, the winter of 2009 has barely begun. It officially started Dec. 21 and will stretch into the third month of 2010. So there is little comfort in the fact that we haven’t seen anything yet in the way of severe weather. There’s plenty of time for snow, ice and flooding and slides caused by incessant rain.

That’s why it doesn’t hurt to remind islanders to make sure they’re prepared for anything. Don’t let the mild start to the winter make you complacent. October, November and December were uneventful, but we’re only halfway home.

A good exercise at the end of the old year is to make sure you’re prepared for any emergency in the new year. Have a store of food and water to last at least a few days, and if possible get an alternative source of heat, whether it be a gas-powered electrical generator, wood, propane or kerosene. The worst part about any power outage is the cold. If you can keep your house warm, you can last for many days without power, as has often been necessary on Whidbey Island.

Islanders by their nature are self-reliant, but our population is changing over time to include more newcomers and more older folks. So make sure your neighbors know what nature might have in store for us, and when the next storm hits, check in on them to make sure they have what they need to survive comfortably until the power is restored.

Take advantage of the mild weather to prepare for the worst. As longtime islanders can tell you, it can happen any time, October through March.

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