Winter storm, our highest risk
Winter storms are the most frequent and impactful of the natural hazards facing the citizens of Washington County. A severe winter storm is generally a prolonged event involving snow and/or ice and subfreezing temperatures. They often produce power outages and transportation and economic disruptions. Additionally, they pose a high risk for injuries and loss of life.
Winter storms are capable of generating a wide range of impacts that each pose a threat to life and/or property. Prolonged exposure to subfreezing temperatures can result in hypothermia and damage to exposed skin tissue. The accumulation of ice on power lines can cause widespread power and communications outages that may last for a week or more. Accumulation of ice on tree limbs can cause tree branches and limbs to break and fall threatening people beneath them-enough accumulation can topple trees completely. And, accumulating snow and ice on roadways can create conditions too difficult for driving causing traffic accidents or leaving motorists stranded.
Washington County has a long history of severe winter storms. The most impactful and prolonged events occurred in 2008, 1950, 1937, 1919, and 1909. The 2008 winter storm blanketed the county in over 20 inches of snow, caused widespread damages, and resulted in a federal disaster declaration. The winter storm of 1950 dropped over 40 inches of snow in Hillsboro and over 60 inches of snow in Forest Grove. Many less severe winter storms have affected the county as well including those in 2014, 2004, 1980, and 1979.
The negative effects of winter storms can be minimized if we take time to prepare ourselves. Avoiding trees with accumulated snow and ice, having a means of cooking and producing heat without power, minimizing driving, and keeping emergency supplies and blankets in our vehicles are a few of the things we can do to protect ourselves from winter storms. Staying informed of impending weather threats gives us time to prepare before the storm. PublicAlerts, a NOAA all-hazards radio, and the FEMA Mobile App can provide us with information about threats many days before they strike.