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January Storms Swell, SERV-OR Readies

On January 19 at 1 p.m., as water levels began to rise in western Oregon, and nearly three hours before Governor Kitzhaber declared a state of emergency for Marion, Coos, Benton, and Lincoln counties, the OHA Public Health Division’s Agency Operations Center (AOC) was activated, and confronted with the challenge of mitigating the state’s worst flood since 1996.

Within the confines of the AOC (pictured), the Health Security, Preparedness, and Response (HSPR) Incident Management Team monitored the situation as the flood, fueled by heavy rains and melted snow, prompted thousands of residents to evacuate their homes in the mid-Willamette Valley.

To compound the situation's severity, in northern Oregon, high elevations experienced heavy snowfall and ice storms, and winds in excess of 100 mph knocked down trees and power lines in Columbia and Hood River counties.

In response to the statewide storm, at 5:00 p.m., SERV-OR issued a standby alert to all 651 SMVP volunteers and system administrators, notifying them of the AOC activation and Governor-declared emergency. Volunteers were asked to confirm receipt of the message. Within 24 hours, 418 had acknowledged – a response rate of 64 percent.

While no volunteers were officially activated, the storm provided a valuable opportunity to assess response numbers for future emergencies.

The status of the SMVP and local MRC units was reported to the AOC, the state’s Emergency Communications Center, and included in the situational status reports shared with the Governor’s office.

Statewide, more than 400 homes were damaged by the storm. A total of nine counties were affected – Marion, Benton, Lincoln, Lane, Linn, Polk, Coos, Hood River, and Columbia – totaling an estimated $38 million in damage.

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