The most recent destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana and New York was a real wakeup call to residents in the Northeast. Could that happen to Pendleton?
If you’re a longtime resident, the Columbus Day Storm in 1964 should ring a bell, both hurricane force winds and rain. Fortunately, most of the damages — other than uprooted trees and downed power lines — were lost shingles, a few fences and small sheds.
Times have changed. Trees are a lot larger and more abundant. Miles of overhead fiber-optic cables are going up daily. So, what’s being done to prepare for another Columbus Day Storm? The answer is pretty simple, nothing.
Several years ago, I mentioned to our city management that, as more overhead cables were installed, our skyline was beginning to resemble that of a third world nation, hoping that a program would materialize to relocate overhead utilities underground in the older parts of town, especially in areas designated as the Urban Renewal District where funds were available.
Suggestions fell on deaf ears. Street trees and dog parks received a higher priority. Besides, public works felt that the structural integrity of our power poles had reached design limits and more overhead lines would not be permitted, but there they are.
Our city management team, not being native residents of Pendleton, seem to be unaware of our historical relationship with Mother Nature. They were astounded at recent flooding, oblivious to the possibility that it could even happen locally. They were cavalier in their attitude that because millions were spent on the aquifer recovery system, that our city was drought resistant, so no additional water conservation measures were needed, despite the alarming drop in the water table over the years.
In his enthusiastic effort to get city council approval for a new fire station, a former fire chief stressed that the old station was not earthquake proof. At the same briefing, the chief building inspector stressed that history clearly showed wind damage was the primary concern in our area.
Will the failure to properly upgrade our city’s infrastructure make us more or less vulnerable to the wrath of Mother Nature in the future, or are we going to rely on new dog parks and infant daycare centers to combat future disasters?