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First widespread public safety power shutdowns in W. Oregon

Here we sit, waiting for the hot east winds to come shrieking over the Cascade Range, bringing down humidity and increasing the threat of wildfire.  After the disastrous 2020 fire season, public and power authorities are taking no chances.  The PSPS have already begun in some areas, although the wind has yet to materialize.  We are not in a designated PSPS area, but power outages are very common in wind events here (lots and lots of trees!)  So… we are in a good space to weather power outages.  Wildfire evacuation – I could have done better to prepare for that, though I have lots of notes from the 2020 evacuation and know where stuff is.  Our problem is evacuating with two horses, a dog and a cat! 

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that! In the meantime, I’ll spend today codifying all my previous evacuation notes into a quick reference, and following my husband around while he checks out and tests the big generator!

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  • Comments (14)

    • 3

      What are you doing to prepare for power outages like this? You mention that you have a big generator, will that last you for a few days and you will be able to continue as normal?

      Some things I would think about doing would be to do all my laundry before the power gets cut off, freeze water bottles to take up dead space and act as cold packs if there is some time without power, and charge up all devices.

      What communication sources will you be relying on to inform you of wildfires nearby and knowing when to evacuate?

      Sorry it feels like I’m grilling you, I just am really intrigued by the situation you are currently in. I hope you get through this time without incident.

      • 6

        Interesting questions – I’m not sure I can check all the boxes, particularly communications.

        We are rural, but just outside the metro area of Portland, OR.  We are on a deep well.  We have a portable generator that is powerful enough to power the well pump.  We actually selected the dual fuel Westinghouse recommended in an article here on The Prepared.  We have never needed it yet.  Hubby just ran through all the steps of isolating it from the grid and grounding it, so I could write it all down in case I need the info for the future.  We have a decent amount of propane and non-ethanol gas on hand.

        We also have 3000 gallons of rainwater, a Berkey filter and a sediment pre-filter.

        We also have two, 2200 watt Honda generators that can be linked together.  One of them is plenty powerful to power the two freezers and refrigerator in the pump house, without having to fire up the big generator.

        I never even thought to put water containers in the freezer.  We were going to go to town to buy some ice, since the refrigerator is not trustworthy to keep things cold with intermittent use of the generator (the freezers are fine).  The ice would be used in a cooler.  Thanks for that great idea, I’m going to go out and do that as soon as I’m done here!

        It’s going to be hot, but not dangerously so.  We’d miss the AC.  We have talked at length about getting a decent sized window unit and plan to do so after the summer.  In a short enough outage, this would be a nice luxury, fuel permitting.

        You are right about the laundry.  That was done a couple of days ago. 

        We have a nifty DIY battery powered shower, and we keep both a small lawnmower battery, and a big, deep cycle battery on chargers at all times.

        We have a bunch of great camping gear, several cooking options (my hobby), a wood stove, tons of firewood, plenty of food.  Large stockpile of hay and pet food.  Batteries, lighting options, books. Short term power outages are not a big inconvenience for us.

        I’m probably pretty shy on communications.  I’m signed up for all the emergency notifications on my cell phone (if the towers are “up”).  The county emergency notification system works really well. Neither of us is tech savvy.  At all.

        And what I didn’t do this summer was stage for an evacuation.  Our evacuation in 2020 was the first of its kind in this area since around 1913 and we had days to pull things together.  Normalcy bias.  The current event is within a week of the date of the 2020 evac.

        It’s only been breezy at our location today.  The air is full of smoke from wildfires a long distance from us. I doubt we’ll be affected, but the power company has indeed shut the power off to all the PSPS areas, about 30,000 customers.

      • 3

        Just an afterthought.  We don’t have cable or satellite TV, but we do have an “amplified” antenna that sticks to the window.  It picks up about 50 local stations, including all the main network stations.  With the generator, we could certainly monitor the local stations for emergency updates.

      • 3

        Sounds like you are very prepared! If you are worried and want to be a bit more on the cautious side, I would not rely solely on the cell phone notifications. In my experience, I might not get the notification but my neighbor does. It’s really a hit or miss. 

        So keep checking on that local tv news station like you have set up, or a good radio playing in the background can give you a heads up. You’ll have to play around with the stations or message the news companies near you and ask if they have a radio station, would they send out warnings about fire, and what frequency they transmit on.

        Looks like N95 masks are an important prep for fires, it doesn’t sound pleasant to be breathing that in. 

        And on a selfish note, thank you for taking the time to post your  experience here. You have no idea how helpful it is to see what you are going through and then have other users like wildfireexpert and pnwsarah pitch in their thoughts and experiences as well. Posts like these are like the slap in the face and knee to the gut that I need to stop saying “it won’t happen to me”, because clearly these things do happen and affect people I can actually talk to. Thank you again.

      • 2

        Hey Olly!  I wish everyone would post their real-time experience (if they’re not in panic mode!) when disaster threatens!  I could learn so much!  And discover that what preps I ignored need to be attended to!  Right now, the sky has changed from filthy orange to a sort of brassy gray, I take that as a good sign.  The wind has also significantly slacked off. There have been no changes to the evac levels since 3am, so the unofficial news that this fire is under control is probably right.  Nonetheless, we are just taking a break from packing.

        The good news is, I had everything that was packed for the 2020 evacs, and the containers they were in, written down. I’m a high anxiety person and this exercise is SO much less traumatic than our first experience!  We’re packing like a well oiled machine!  LOL! Our situation calls for packing for full scale horse camping, since we might be going to a rodeo or fairgrounds, so we pretty much have to be fully self contained to provide for the horses.  Not just throwing a bug-out bag in the trunk!  LOL!

        Thanks for the heads-up on the notification systems.  It’s really new to our county and my experiences with it so far has been excellent, but definitely, monitoring the situation by whatever means is super important!

      • 4

        I saw this quote that pretty much sums up your feelings Olly Wright.

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        I found this to be true to me as well. As a moderator of this forum, I read every comment that comes in and have learned so so much. Everyone’s experiences help grow my knowledge and build my survival guide.

        Thank you everyone!

      • 1

        That is well said is is how I feel. I remember the stories I read on here and do think about them when I see news headlines of disasters going around.

    • 5

      GOOD FOR YOU, @BarbLee !!!

      I’m in San Diego County, home of all things fire and flammable.   Got burned out in 2003.   Fanatical about insurance.    (The only fire insurance is through a cr*p program for people in rural areas that can’t get hazard insurance.   Cost 4x a much for far less coverage…..oh well)

      Every year on October 1, my insurance comes due and every year I prepared like the end of the world is gonna happen within 30 days.  

      For horses, pre-stage horse trailer near horses, headed in the direction you’ll need to take.    Practice loading onto trailers BEFORE you need to.  Trust me on this one…

      Make a dog AND cat “Go Bag”:   portable kennel with leash, collar, food, water, bowls in a bag inside kennel.   Place by door.   Put pets in bathroom and close the door when you start the evacuation so you don’t have to chase ’em down when you’re frantic.  

      Fill all vehicles with gas.  Point all vehicles out in direction you’ll take when evacuating.  

      Talk to your insurance agent and ASK IN WRITING IN AN EMAIL:  “Is this coverage sufficient to rebuild after a wildfire?”  (Currently, as of this month, rebuild costs for average homes, not fancy homes, is $400-$500 per square foot.   This is not counting surge pricing if a lot of homes in your area burn.)

      • 5

        Not so good for me, I guess…we woke up to Level 1 (Get ready) evacuation notice as a fire broke out in the state park, 7 miles from here with the east wind blowing it in this direction.  We are NOT ready to leave, so I know what we’ll be doing all day today.

    • 6

      I pretty much came on here to see if anyone was posting about this. I got a scratchy throat, nausea, and the beginnings of a migraine just going for a 90 minute walk yesterday morning— high smoke and wind from the east will do that to me. I was thinking about the fact that we’re within a week of the date the 2020 fires started. When I woke up this morning, the light filtering into our bedroom was orange. Sky is yellow-gray, and the trees are tossing around pretty hard. We’re in the city and under no orders (it would have to be historically, apocalyptically bad for that to change) but it’s eerie af. I feel like I want to stage our BOBs just because it looks so sketchy out there. 

      Good luck to you, Barb! I’m thinking about you and all the other rural W OR folks on here and hoping this doesn’t turn into a repeat of two years ago. 

      • 5

        Thanks pnwsarah!  The sky and air are a hideous orange color!!  Unofficial word is that the fire is contained and in mop up phase.  Our evac level hasn’t changed and the wind is gradually dying down.  In our part of the county, firefighting resources tend to descend like Thor’s hammer in situations like this…we LOVE and SUPPORT our first responders!  The fires in 2020 were in national forest, so the response was from an entirely different direction, and of course those fires were MASSIVE! They were on this one by 10:30 last night, but apparently at least one house was sadly lost.

        I haven’t shifted into panicky packing mode, but am just about to get going on that.  Bugging out with horses means literally packing for a two-week wilderness trip!  We can’t just go to a hotel. So I should have made a leisurely start in June.  We just didn’t think “lightning would strike twice” but clearly the rules have changed.

      • 3

        My heart is with you, @Barb Lee.    Lightning does strike twice, especially in So CA (and now in North CA and further north).   I am so proud of you for being SO aware and prepared.  Neither Normalcy bias nor over-prepping seems to have bitten you in the butt–Good Job!   You’re following the mantra of theprepared . com which is “sane” prepping to enable a “sane” response.  

        You two have got this.  Even if you pack what you need, and load up the vehicles and then have to unpack later; you can always look back with pride and certainty that you have done all you are able to do.   

        Enjoy your home, ride out the uncertainties.    And always know that it is far better to leave early, before you must, even if it means packing up stuff and animals for a two week trip that doesn’t happen.  It’s great practice!

    • 5

      Thanks to everyone for encouraging comments and words of wisdom!  The level one (get ready) evacuation notice expired without our having to leave, although the level two and three notices remain.  Our mighty firefighters crushed the threat.

      Very stressful stuff, packing to leave ahead of a disaster.  Takes more of a toll than I think most people realize.

      Some lessons learned.  I was really surprised to see how my variety of stored, shelf stable foods has expanded!  That was a plus.  Now I just want to see the end of this smoke and get the windblown debris cleared away.  And finish packing.  Just in case.

      Best to you all.  Be safe!

      • 1

        @Barb Lee Thank you for letting us know.   You were in my thoughts.