Storm is a reminder to be prepared, help island’s homeless

  • Wednesday, November 15, 2017 8:00am
  • Opinion

The first major wind-and-rain storm of the year hit Monday, ushering in the days of long, gray and windy days on Whidbey Island.

About 18,000 homes on Whidbey Island lost power in “vegetation-related” incidents and it still wasn’t restored to scattered areas as of Tuesday morning, according to Puget Sound Energy. Gusts were recorded at more than 60 mph on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The storm is a reminder of the importance of being prepared for inclement weather and potential power outages. A generator is a good idea, but not necessarily a necessity. It’s wise to have extra food, water, flashlights, batteries and candles on hand.

The importance of water can’t be overestimated, Island County Department of Emergency Management reports. One approach to ensuring the adequacy of water is for residents to stockpile enough for each member of their families for drinking and hygiene over an extended period of time.

More information about preparedness can be found at the department’s website at www.islandcountywa.gov

It’s also a good time to remember there are many people, including children, without homes. Island County estimates that more than 200 homeless individuals and families live in the county.

Whidbey Homeless Coalition has no plans to run a warming center in Langley this winter because the Haven, an emergency shelter in Oak Harbor, is now open every night. The past two winters, the coalition and Langley United Methodist Church worked together to provide overnight shelter from the cold for the homeless. Doors opened to its fellowship hall when temperatures dipped to 35 degrees or below.

The Red Cross reports that air temperature does not have to be below freezing for someone to experience cold emergencies such as hypothermia and frostbite. Wind speed can create dangerously cold conditions even when the temperature is not that low.

The opening of the Haven is a step forward in addressing the homeless problem on the island, but the lack of a warming center on South Whidbey may be felt by those in need, especially during the weekends when there’s no Island Transit service.

Residents and officials need to continue working to address homeless issues. And you can do your part to help as well — the Haven and SPIN Cafe are always in need of volunteers, financial donations and items to help run its overnight shelter. Whidbey Homeless Coalition can be reached at 360-221-5848, the Haven at 360-977-1200 and the SPIN Cafe at 360-682-5949.

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