After the Storm; Resources and guidance for Oregonians

Salem, OR –  February 19, 2021 – Many Oregonians face new challenges in the aftermath of the recent severe winter ice storm, while first responders, utility workers and state agencies continue to prioritize life-safety in their response efforts. The sun is peeking out in parts of the state and warmer temperatures are melting ice and snow but this leaves many residents with considerable debris and other rubble to clean up, while others still remain without power.
 
Many community resources are available, and in true Oregon fashion, others are standing up to assist neighbors as residents emerge after being shut in by the storm. Below are some resources and guidance to help you, your family and fellow Oregonians recover safely:

  • Save 911 for emergencies only: OEM is receiving reports of an increase in 911 calls related to downed power lines and outages where there is not a threat to life-safety. This takes away valuable resources from priority work and lengthens the overall restoration timelines.
  • Check with your local emergency management office: Many hard-hit counties have gathered information and posted online; those without power may be able to address issues by phone.
    • Marion County has posted resources on its website, from debris management (including drop off locations for woody storm debris) to where to find a warming or charging station and how to dispose of spoiled food.
    • Clackamas County has storm resource centers for community members without power to access warming or charging stations and food resources.
  • Homeowner’s insurance: Before submitting a claim, determine if the benefits of filing a claim for the damage outweigh the costs (often called a cost-benefit analysis). Make sure to consider your deductible as part of that analysis. The Oregon Division of Financial regulation has posted Storm Insurance Resources, covering wind, cold, loss of electricity, etc.
  • Fallen tree and debris removal:
    • DO NOT remove trees, branches or debris that are in contact with a powerline. For all powerline related debris removal, contact your utility provider.
    • Do not put propane tanks or cylinders in the garbage or recycling bin.
    • Contact your local hauler to see what and how much extra debris they can take, the best way to bundle it and if extra fees will be charged.

Wherever possible, consider alternatives to debris burning. Other options include:

  • Recycle paper products when possible
  • Dispose of waste at a landfill
  • Compost yard debris and kitchen scrap
  • Rent a chipper and use chips for mulch and compost
  • Cut tree debris for firewood. Don’t need firewood? Check with neighbors or local social service agencies. Low-income seniors and others too frail or disabled to cut their own might appreciate a donation of firewood.

If burning debris is the only option, protect your home and your neighbors’ properties by building the fire correctly, staying with it from start to finish, and making sure it is completely out when done. These key steps apply to any open fire, whether it is a debris pile, a burn barrel, or a backyard campfire. Also:

  • Call before you burn. Burning regulations are not the same in all areas of the state. Check with your local fire agency or air protection authority first to learn if burning is prohibited or if a permit is required.
  • Never use gasoline or other accelerants.
  • Keep your open fire small and manageable. Debris piles should be no bigger than 4 feet tall and 4 feet in diameter. Add debris in small amounts as existing debris is consumed by the fire. Burn barrels with screened lids offer a safer method of burning yard debris.
  • Create a fuel break around the pile: Remove all flammable material and vegetation down to mineral soil within 10 feet of the outer edge of the pile. Make sure there are no tree branches or power lines above and no structures, outbuildings or wood fences nearby. Wet down the surrounding area before and during the burn to prevent spot fires from embers.
  • Always have water and fire tools on site: Have a charged water hose or large bucket of water, and a shovel on hand to quickly extinguish any escaped embers or escaped flames. These tools will also be needed when you are ready to fully extinguish the fire.
  • Extinguish the fire completely: Drown the fire with water, stir the coals, and drown again. Repeat these actions until the fire is completely out.

Many have reached out to OEM to inquire about federal assistance for ice storm cleanup and power outages. While FEMA resources are not currently available, county, tribal and local emergency management offices are assessing and submitting documentation of damages to public infrastructure and that of debris removal which eliminate immediate threats to lives, public health and safety and that are a direct result of the severe weather that occurred Feb. 11-15, 2021. Assessments will be compiled and reviewed to determine if a Major Disaster Declaration is warranted. Questions about damage to public infrastructure and debris removal that meet the above criteria may be directed to the State Public Assistance Officer Julie Slevin at Julie.slevin@state.or.us.