When disasters strike, Central Washington communities come together

Dan Newhouse, U. S. Congressman

“Okanogan Strong” was the motto that aptly described the community’s response during devastating wildfires that struck our region in 2014. That same saying applies again today as the Okanogan community grapples with a natural disaster – this time severe flooding that is potentially the worst since 1972. Emergency declarations have been issued by the state, county, and cities. With warmer weather bringing spring runoff, we have also been seeing floods in Grant County and the Tri-Cities area as well. I have been closely monitoring flooding in Okanogan County and throughout Central Washington.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and emergency personal, including an Incident Command Team, have dispersed throughout Okanogan County working with volunteers to fill sandbags and reinforce dikes.
I have been very proud of the local community stepping up to help their neighbors. Already, volunteers and teams of people have been hard at work to help move items out of homes, fill and deploy sandbags, and give other forms of assistance. I saw that over 600,000 sandbags had been filled as of last Tuesday with many schoolchildren in Okanogan and Tonasket helping fill bags – including Oroville School District students who canceled sports practices to fill sandbags.
The Farm Service Agency is also working to gather information on agriculture losses as far as production, livestock and infrastructure so that the agency can be ready to work towards recovery based on accurate damage assessments.
Last Friday, May 18, marked 38 years since the eruption of Mount Saint Helens, which was one of the greatest natural catastrophes to strike the Pacific Northwest. Then, as now, Washingtonians joined together to clean up Mother Nature’s devastation and offer a hand of help to those in need of assistance.
I am pleased that locals are coming together to help one another in Okanogan, and I stand ready to help in any way I can. You can get more information and sign up for alerts about meetings at the Okanogan County Emergency Management website at http://okanogandem.org.
Thank you to all of the Okanogan Strong teams and volunteers that are keeping communities safe.

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