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Originally published October 25, 2010 at 7:19 PM | Page modified October 26, 2010 at 8:40 AM

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Time to get ready for winter, safety campaign says

Auburn residents learn how to prepare if they have to escape their homes because of floods.

Seattle Times staff reporter

On Monday, Wayne Osborne, who lives above the Green River in Auburn, was given 10 minutes to pack essentials in case he ever has to flee floods.

Osborne and his wife, Tokiko, dumped clothes and medicine, along with his cellphone charger and backup computer files, in a duffle bag and put water, food and his laptop computer in the trunk of his vehicle.

He was told to pack enough for three days. What if there was too much water to drive his car?

"I guess we're leaving a little late at that point," said Osborne, a retired air traffic controller.

"Take Winter by Storm," a safety campaign that began in 1988 to help families prepare for a hard winter as is forecast for Western Washington this year, used Osborne and neighbor Phil Lercher as examples of how to respond in a flooding danger.

Just a half a block from Osborne's house is a Green River rain gauge, which shows how high the water in the river is. On Monday it was 54 feet, not a serious height.

Osborne said he was not worried about his house flooding from the Green River — the highest the river ever rose was in 1959 at 69 ¼ feet, and that still didn't touch Osborne's house — but Osborne agreed to participate in Monday's exercise for the TV cameras to help raise awareness.

While Osborne and Lercher were racing the clock, volunteers put together safety kits with water, blankets, batteries, flashlights, first-aid supplies and even playing cards that will be delivered to the Auburn Senior Center.

Lercher, a Maple Valley firefighter, already has an emergency kit packed and came out with a backpack that weighed about 40 pounds. If he had more time, said Lercher, he'd grab family photos.

"It's nice to get ideas and get my kit reviewed," Lercher said.

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

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.

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Take Winter by Storm has a website, http://www.govlink.org/storm, with advice on how to prepare. The $240,000 program is a collaboration by King County, the city of Seattle, Puget Sound Energy and State Farm insurance.

The website has a list of items that should be packed in an emergency kit.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

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