Coming together during the dark, cold days of winter | Editorial

We had just caught our breath from the aftermath of severe flooding when the blizzards came.

It was a glorious white Christmas with several inches of snow that also brought unprecedented freezing temperatures. Pipes froze, water lines burst, the power went out, people couldn’t make it out of their driveways and island airports closed. Stores closed early or didn’t open at all. To top it off, the Tillikum was out the entire week for repairs so there was no inter-island ferry service.

The Town of Friday Harbor experienced a severe water shortage due to broken pipes in homes and businesses. All residents have been conserving water as best they can, and the supply is slowly getting back to acceptable levels. Thank you to all who have given of their time and energy to the situation, most notably the Town of Friday Harbor employees, including two recently retired members of the department who came back to assist in the emergency.

It’s likely we have not seen the end of exceptionally cold weather. To help prevent the impact of pipes bursting, Brendan Cowan, Director of the San Juan County Department of Emergency Management, offers these tips:

1. Carefully monitor your own property to ensure that any leaks are identified and controlled quickly. Regularly check everywhere a leak might be possible. A leak might not be apparent for a couple of days into a thaw.

2. Help out neighbors or others who might need a hand checking for leaks.

3. If you have property on the island but are not at home, please have someone come and carefully inspect your property for potential leaks.

3. Keep an eye on any empty properties in your neighborhood. Look for obvious signs of leaking. If water meters are accessible, see if they are showing activity despite no one being home.

4. Those who are responsible for community water systems should frequently monitor supply levels to quickly identify any potential problems, may want to consider inspecting meters of any vacant homes, and should communicate with all residents on system, asking them to monitor for leaks.

5. Residents on communal water systems may want to check on their earthquake kits and make sure they have a few days of water on hand in case systems lose service.

Thank you to the county crews, emergency responders, medical professionals and pharmacy workers handling COVID-related issues, postal workers, UPS drivers, OPALCO linemen, plumbers and thoughtful friends and neighbors who have been there for us during an unpredictably chaotic holiday.

Members of the Orcas community have rallied around an islander who was in a head-on car collision caused by icy roads. Incredibly, more than $70,000 has been raised to help Luka Palisaede with medical expenses. We are astounded by your generosity. We continue to think positively for Palisaede, who is in a coma in the ICU.

Eastsound has also fallen victim to a rash of commercial and residential break-ins. This past weekend marks the third catastrophic house fire since December. As we now a face significant increase in local COVID cases, some schools have gone back to virtual learning, sports have been postponed and fear is once again seeping into our social interactions.

We continue to be tested, and we can continue to find strength in our love and care for one another.