Be prepared for winter, storms and emergencies

Weather observation techniques have improved a lot. Back in the day, you might have some warning of a storm if grandma's trick knee was acting up.

Now we have more scientific methods of predicting weather patterns.

Last month, meteorologists predicted fairly accurately that three major storms were going to converge over the East Coast sometime Oct. 29.

This advance warning saved lives.

It also gave people time to gather enough essentials to see them through while crews worked to restore power and clean water.

We can learn from Superstorm Sandy, even if we don't have a Frankenstorm headed our way.

You don't have to read a Doppler map to know that winter is coming. A calendar will suffice. After all, it is the end of November.

Mid-Columbia tire stores report that people wait until the snow starts to fall before they put snow tires on the car. Isn't that just like most of us? Procrastinators.

The problem, of course, is that if you want snow tires the same day everyone else is trying to get them, the wait is long and sometimes the supply runs out.

Shoppers trying to stock up for Sandy were able to quickly clear off the shelves of their stores so some of the last-minute shoppers were left empty handed.

Again, we can learn this lesson from our friends on the East Coast without ourselves feeling the brunt. Experience may be the best teacher, but it's not always the kindest.

In the Mid-Columbia we don't have snow every year, but we do have winter. We would all be wise to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature is sending our way this year.

Carry a blanket or two in the car along with some water and non-perishable food. Just in case.

Same thing at home.

Keep a few extra days' worth of food in the cupboard and a little fresh drinking water. Blankets, emergency candles and flashlights -- with batteries -- all come in handy if the power is out for an extended period of time.

It's also a good time to stock up on useful knowledge. Know how to turn off the gas and water in your home. Designate a family meeting place. Practice fire escape routes.

Readers often use the letters column to debate about whose responsibility it is to care for people. Certainly, we need to all be doing what we can to take care of ourselves.

Being prepared protects us and puts us in a better place to help our family and neighbors.

Some emergencies you can plan for. Others will surprise you.

Your Thanksgiving was probably filled with family, friends and gratitude. In the wake of being thankful for the things we have, it's a good time to take inventory of where we might be vulnerable and shore up those resources -- for ourselves and for our community.