PAT NEAL: Disaster preparedness month

SEPTEMBER IS NATIONAL Disaster Preparedness Month. It’s time to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies.

As you read this, the forests of the Olympic Peninsula have been dehydrated by an east wind that could spawn a conflagration of epic proportions. It’s happened before. Chances are it will happen again.

As you read this, massive tectonic plates deep beneath the ocean are grinding against each other just offshore in the Cascadia Subduction zone.

It’s just waiting for a chance to slip and cause an earthquake that could be of magnitude 8 or 9, like those off Indonesia in 2004 and Japan in 2011, producing a tsunami of unknown height and speed that could slam into our coastline as little as 15 minutes later.

The destructive effects of a subduction event could destroy nearly every structure and road on the Peninsula. It’s happened before. It will happen again.

Scientists have estimated more than 40 earthquakes greater than magnitude 8 have occurred here in the last 10,000 years. The last one was Jan. 27, 1700. Our population and infrastructure have increased since then.

The carnage and destruction of another Cascadia event would be an unimaginable disaster that could leave the area without transportation, utilities, food supplies or medical care for months.

As you read this, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters are predicting a three-peat of La Nina, which is a cooling of the Pacific Ocean which can bring the Pacific Northwest below-average temperatures and above-average precipitation this coming winter. In other words, get out your long johns.

Besides finding your underwear, there are many other disaster preparedness plans.

1. Panic. Experts are always telling us not to panic. It’s bad advice. I say panic early and often. It’s never too early to panic. Panic is your friend. Practice panicking now before the disaster hits. Maybe you’ll panic enough to check your smoke detector, get a fire extinguisher and a Disaster Preparedness Kit. It’s a good excuse to hoard extra food, water and batteries for all your electronic junk.

2. Migrate. Millions of birds are beginning their migration down our Pacific coast from the Arctic tundra to the tropics. Get a clue. One of the best ways to avoid a disaster here is to leave home and head south. Problem solved.

3. Bulk up. Here is another tip we can take from our animal friends, many of whom are incapable of migrating south. Bears, for example, spend the summer and autumn putting on fat to adapt to the colder winter weather. In addition to the survival benefits of having an increased blubber index, the larger you are, the more likely you will be seen by would-be rescuers when disaster strikes.

4. Grow your hair longer. In addition to blubber, many creatures grow a thicker coat of fur in the winter. Longer hair will not only keep you warmer, it will save you money on haircuts.

5. Hibernate. I’m not saying that everyone can attain a state of true hibernation, like our iconic Olympic marmots or members of Congress, but you don’t know until you try. Hibernation is an inexpensive expedient to disaster preparedness that will not increase your carbon footprint.

6. Contact your neighbors. A good neighbor will loan you stuff. Find out what to borrow from your neighbors now, before disaster strikes. By then, it will probably be too late.

These are just a few of the many things you can do for Disaster Preparedness Month, besides finding your underwear. We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.

_________

Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via [email protected]

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