A couple of weeks ago, there was an unusually large amount of snow on the ground all over Cascadia.  That in itself is not news.  We were all inconvenienced, but we all collectively made it through without too much damage.  A few weeks later, we are all doing just fine and the big accumulation of snow is quickly becoming just another story to tell about at social gatherings.

One of the things that got me a bit riled up during that time was the number of people who were blaming the government for their lack of response.  Although this was an unusual event, there were more than a few complaints that our governments should have done much more to fix the snow on the roads much more quickly than they did.  While that would have been nice, no city or county in the Northwest had enough equipment and resources on hand to immediately get things back to normal.  Under the circumstances, I wouldn’t have expected them to.

I agree with the Seattle mayor’s assessment of the situation that our local areas did about as well as could be expected with the resources they had. Portland also concluded that they had done relatively well in their response, even though all services were not kept in place as if it were just another day.  In fact, that week was not “just another day”.  However, some commentators questioned that, if the cities could not get the roads clear of snowfall in a “timely” manner, then how prepared are they if there were an emergency such as major flooding or an earthquake.

Well, unfortunately, we did have the opportunity to visit that question this week.  On Thursday, we have had flooding on a number of rivers and streams throughout the region.  People have been evacuated from their homes, water is rising over roadways and bridges, and Interstate 5 has been closed for a 20-mile stretch in Lewis County and has effectively cut off Seattle from Portland, since every potential detour route is also covered with water and mudslides.  The snow situation was not really an emergency.  The flooding is indeed an emergency.

In this emergency, the responses of our government-run agencies and others have been commendable.  In parts of Pierce, Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties, the Fire and Police Departments were using their automated phone systems to call out to residents to get the word out that an evacuation of their town or part of town was necessary.  Fire and Police in the affected areas were mobilized to respond to getting everyone out, as neighbors and others worked together to help others to safety.  Over the next few days, WSDOT (through some hard work and a little bit of luck from Mother Nature) managed to open I-5 in two days instead of the four or five days that they were predicting.  What we have observed is, given a true emergency to work with, we do seem to have a plan in place that works.

This doesn’t necessarily prove that we are well prepared for everything.  In fact, we may not know just how we will fare when “The Big One” hits us until we are forced to cross that path.  In the meantime, presuming that our leaders continue the good work, I think I can safely proclaim that we have a plan in place and the resources to deal with a true emergency in our region.