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Originally published October 3, 2010 at 10:02 PM | Page modified October 4, 2010 at 6:44 AM

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'Take Winter by Storm' urges preparations for cold weather

Did last winter's mild weather lull you into complacency? With meteorologists warning a La Niña pattern is likely to bring colder, wetter and snowier conditions this year, a campaign called "Take Winter by Storm" is urging folks in the Puget Sound region to get ready.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Emergency kit

"Take Winter by Storm" recommends preparing three emergency kits — one each for home, car and work — that include:

• Flashlight and batteries

• Radio and extra batteries

• First-aid supplies

• A three-day supply of nonperishable food and bottled water per person

• Fire extinguisher

Other foul-weather tips

• Keep storm drains in your neighborhood clear of leaves and other debris.

• Clean gutters and downspouts and direct flows away from your house.

• Never use charcoal or gas grills indoors, or run generators indoors.

• Stay away from downed power lines and report them to your local utility.

Source: "Take Winter by Storm"

Information

Take Winter by Storm: www.govlink.org/storm

Seattle RainWatch: www.atmos.washington.edu/SPU

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Did last winter's mild weather lull you into complacency?

With meteorologists warning a La Niña pattern is likely to bring colder, wetter and snowier conditions this year, a campaign called "Take Winter by Storm" is urging folks in the Puget Sound region to get ready.

"Even our easy winters typically have some rough weather," said Puget Sound Energy spokesman Andy Wappler. "But in a La Niña year, the odds are heavily stacked that most people will experience weather that at a minimum is an inconvenience, like a short loss of power, or something that is really damaging."

The paralyzing snowstorms of 2008, floods that closed Interstate 5 in 2007 and the 2006 windstorm that knocked out power to more than a million homes and businesses are examples of what winter in Western Washington can dish out — and lessons in the value of preparation.

"A lot of people have cursed the darkness as they're trying to find a flashlight after a windstorm," Wappler said. "Nobody ever regretted being prepared for weather that didn't happen."

The "Take Winter by Storm" website (www.govlink.org/storm) offers tips in nine languages, including a checklist for assembling an emergency kit and plan. There's also a printable contact card that can help family members and friends connect through a third party if local cellphone service is disrupted but long-distance service still functions.

The program, a collaboration of King County, the city of Seattle, Puget Sound Energy and State Farm insurance, includes a stepped-up push on Facebook, Twitter and other social media aimed at younger people.

Surveys show these "young invincibles" are much less likely to prepare for emergencies than people with children or elderly relatives to care for, Wappler said.

Most of the $240,000 budget for the program will be devoted to television, radio and other media ads spotlighting safety and preparedness messages throughout the winter. Among them will be enlisting residents to help prevent localized flooding by clearing leaves and debris from their neighborhood storm drains.

"The municipal and public agencies will do what they can, but they can't be at every drain all the time," Wappler said.

When the weather turns cold and power outages are likely, the focus will be on the perils of operating charcoal grills or generators indoors. Several people who tried to warm their homes that way during the 2006 outages perished of carbon-monoxide poisoning.

La Niña years are typically wetter than usual in the Northwest, particularly in late fall and early winter. A new online tool available this year will help Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and residents better track rainfall patterns across the city.

Seattle RainWatch (www.atmos.washington.edu/SPU) uses high-resolution radar and rain gauges to provide a real-time picture. The system is able to tabulate total rainfall for a 48-hour period, and provide a one-hour forecast of how the rain is likely to move.

Developed by University of Washington meteorologists Cliff Mass and Phil Regulski, the system also sends automatic warnings to SPU officials when rainfall approaches the levels that could cause flooding. The hope is to prevent the type of localized flooding that killed a woman trapped in her basement in Madison Valley in 2006.

But RainWatch is also helpful in less dire circumstances, Mass said.

"It's extremely useful if you want to bicycle somewhere and avoid getting wet."

Sandi Doughton: 206-464-2491 or sdoughton@seattletimes.com

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