As of Tuesday, the island is starting to thaw from one of the Pacific Northwest’s coldest winter snaps in years.
Yes, it’s true that our “frigid” is a Minnesotan’s “lukewarm.” But areas more accustomed to the cold have the infrastructure, programs and public education to mitigate it.
Just days before the chill, crews from Puget Sound Energy repaired power lines from last week’s windstorm and re-electrified the island, working long hours to get residents back online in time to prepare for the extreme weather.
Vashon Island Fire & Rescue first responders also had an incredible stretch of days, responding to multiple calls for wires down, trees down, and broken water and sprinkler system pipes. They also made repeated transports to hospitals in Tacoma and Seattle amid all the weather drama.
And let’s not forget our ferry workers and mail carriers, whose jobs are difficult in the best of times. They are always tenacious too, in hard times.
Islanders provided vital resources for those in need during the record-breaking weather event — hot meals from the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness at the Presbyterian Church, hot showers from the Methodist Church, and a warming space from Vashon Center for The Arts and the King County Library. St. Vincent de Paul also provided emergency firewood.
There are too many names and other organizations to list who helped out, too, but a few people do deserve special mention. Fire Chief Matt Vinci and VashonBePrepared President Vicky de Monterey Richoux worked the phones to make sure that Vashon’s library opened up as a warming center on Sunday. Housing advocate Hilary Emmer and others distributed warm coats and blankets and hand warmers to houseless islanders and others in need.
Rick Wallace, manager of Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center, got up in the middle of the night during the windstorm to go to town and personally repair Voice of Vashon’s internet signal, which had gone down.
One of the sweetest contributions to the weekend came from folks who reminded us that cold weather can be beautiful: Linda and Gary Peterson provided old-fashioned cheer and community spirit by outfitting islanders with nearly 100 pairs of ice skates to enjoy at frozen-over Fisher Pond.
All of those efforts were commendable and should be encouraged. As of Monday, no deaths or serious injuries had been reported from the weather by Vashon Island Fire and Rescue.
We hope that stays true, and we also hope this weekend can serve as a lesson that Vashon-Maury Island has the means and resources to do even more for its residents. With the mid-teens temperatures fading behind us, now is the time to start seriously planning for the next weather event — including how we might volunteer or otherwise support an overnight shelter for emergency temperatures.
In the meantime, it never hurts to visit your neighbors and see if they need help getting propane or firewood.