Coastal gale

The North Coast emerged stronger after the Great Coastal Gale of 2007.

Unlike tsunami preparedness, we don’t have a go-bag for this coronavirus.

So what are we supposed to do? Toilet paper and hand sanitizers have grown wings and flown out of stores. Why can’t we wake up from this bad dream? Fear is understandable with all that is happening and how it is affecting our jobs, our businesses, our schools and our lives.

But let’s take a moment to look at what is going well. First of all, the people of Clatsop County have a long history of courage and endurance. ‘Sisu,’ the Finnish concept for grit, bravery and resilience, is part of the culture of the coast. Second of all, spring is here, with its flowers and warmer weather, this will help our moods.

How are our community leaders helping? On March 16, the Board of Commissioners voted to declare a state of emergency, making us eligible for more funding and to authorize other needed options, and as chairwoman, I was ready to sign it. We have excellent cooperation between our governments, our businesses and our local agencies. This is a good thing. We all need to be rowing together and we are. We need to concentrate on reaching shore, not being distracted by noisy birds overhead.

With my years of experience with the county, I can say with certainty we have a professional staff that is the envy of many. During this time, the county Public Health Department, the emergency management team, the county government, the sheriff’s office and the information technology department, as well as other staff members, are all working long hours to get the job done. We have an excellent team in Clatsop County.

Each week, we have a cooperator’s call which connects our county team with our community partners to share information. Please indulge me as I list the many entities included: county commissioners; city officials; 911 centers; law enforcement and fire chiefs; Medix; health care partners; school districts; Red Cross; military; special districts; Port of Astoria; chambers of commerce; and state and federal agencies.

Breakfasts and lunches are now being delivered by familiar yellow school buses to children in the Astoria School District. In Knappa, community volunteers are providing meals at specific locations to all students. Seaside schools have designated areas for meal pickups. All across the county, volunteers are continuing to deliver meals to seniors. If you have any questions, call NorthWest Senior and Disability Services, located in Warrenton, or your senior community meal locations.

We all benefit from these collaborations. Think of the multitude of meetings and phone conferences required. The combined knowledge, skills and experience is immense. And remember, aside from titles and roles at work, all of these folks are also our neighbors, our family members and our friends. Together we are implementing plans and marshaling resources to meet the challenges ahead and to reduce the very real suffering.

Remember the Great Coastal Gale of 2007? As a region, we reroofed our homes and learned how to be licensed ham radio operators. Remember the earthquake in Japan and the New Yorker article on the threat of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake? We set up communication systems, escape routes and prepared go-bags. We also walked next door to introduce ourselves to the neighbors. Resulting benefits remain, because as communities, we imagined possible disasters and planned options to endure and to prevail. In other words, we added to the collective memory of resilience, which will serve us well now.

Winston Churchill, always a source for excellent quotes, said, “Fear is reaction. Courage is a decision.” While fear is temporary, the power of love and compassion is eternal. With courage we recognize this is not a dream, and with our eyes open we decide what to do.

First, we must believe that our actions matter. Please follow the necessary public health guidelines. We can slow the spread of the virus through social distancing, while also supporting each other with encouraging phone calls and emails. We need to practice compassion for ourselves and others as we go through these days of anxiety. I will be here as part of the experienced team of community leaders working to keep you safe and to develop pathways for recovery when this is over.

We will get through this.

Kathleen Sullivan is the chairwoman of the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners.

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