Preparing for harsh island winters | Editorial

It seems that winter snowstorms are becoming a tradition for us in the Pacific Northwest.

Along with Christmas, Chanukah and New Year’s Eve, we’ve welcomed winter’s wrath the past few seasons. Last year it was devastating rain and cold. This holiday, a foot of snow came to the islands, impacting people’s ability to get food for themselves, drive to work, go to school and stay warm.

According to OPALCO, extreme winter weather means our heating systems are working harder to keep up. Even if you keep your thermostat the same your system is running more often and for longer periods of time. Your heating system is working to make up the difference between the outdoor and indoor temperatures and the longer the cold spell the harder they have to work and the more electricity you use. You can track how much electricity you are using in our SmartHub app:

OPALCO members can report power outages by calling 360-376-3500. Get the latest updates at

Knowing how to prepare for storms can keep people safer and prevent home damage. If a storm is forecasted, follow these guidelines.

• Charge a mobile phone and other electronic devices to full battery in advance of the storm in case power goes out.

• Stock the home with extra batteries for flashlights and battery-powered devices, such as a portable radio.

• Invest in a car charger to charge devices if the power is out for some time.

• Keep a supply of canned or boxed nonperishable items, as well as convenience foods that do not need to be cooked, like granola bars.

• Periodically check to ensure that the first aid kit is stocked with items that have not expired.

• Refill medications so that they are on hand in the event weather makes it challenging to get to the store.

• Keep emergency supplies of bottled water. If you forget this, fill the bathtub with fresh water. Extra water will be needed for toilet flushing if yours is a septic system.

• Have warm blankets on hand and sleeping bags for each person in the home.

• Unplug all electronic devices if the power goes out to protect against a surge and damage when the power is restored.

• Exercise caution when burning candles, opting for flashlights and lanterns instead.

• If it’s very cold outside, move refrigerated and frozen items outdoors so they do not spoil in an unpowered refrigerator.

• Do not use gas stoves, charcoal grills or other open-flame heat sources for warmth indoors. Carbon monoxide gas can build up inside and prove deadly.

• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a backup generator for power.

• Stock up on gasoline for vehicles and power gas-driven generators.

• Be cautious of downed power lines in the area when driving or walking.

Winter Storm Resources

San Juan County Emergency Management:

OPALCO’s Storm Prep Checklist:

Ready Gov: Winter Weather:

FEMA “How to Prepare for a Winter Storm” Video: