Weekend storm was good prep for future emergencies, officials say

SEATTLE — A good round of practice.

That’s what emergency management officials and public utility districts are saying about this weekend’s storm. And those preparations weren’t for nothing.

The storm did do some pretty significant damage, knocking out power to thousands of homes and toppling plenty of trees. The worst of it, however, stayed west.

“We actually activated the emergency operation center, we put people here for the early morning Friday morning commute as well as Saturday afternoon into the evening,” said Barb Graff, director of Seattle’s Emergency Management Office.

The EOC is used to coordinate city and community resources, like fire and police, during potentially dangerous events.  Activating it is something they only do about eight times a year.

The biggest activation in recent memory was for the parade following the Seahawks' Super Bow win.

"We are exchanging information with each other about what kinds of impacts we are seeing and how we are addressing those in a coordinated fashion," Graff said.

Even though staff went home when the storm peeled away from the coast, Graff says the practice can be be priceless.

"It`s a good exercise for the community as well," Graff said. "There's a lot of people who stocked up on supplies or rotated and got new supplies."

Public utilities in the Seattle area felt the same way.

"We were prepared, we were ready to go if the storm actually had been as big as they predicted," said Neil Neroutsos, spokesman for Snohomish County PUD.

Snohomish PUD lost power to 10,000 homes during the peak of the storm. It had 500 or more people working the weekend for just that scenario.

"Most of those were in south Everett, Edmonds, and then scattered throughout the county but it was a pretty quick fix," Neroutsos said.

Over in the Grays Harbor PUD, 5,000 homes lost power, the longest for abut 18 hours. While this wasn't the hardest-hitting storm, it's indicative of what could happen this winter.

"This didn't happen as strong as we thought it might, but we are ready for the next one," Neroutsos said.