Local agencies plan ahead for winter emergencies

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BONNERS FERRY — The October Boundary County Local Emergency Planning Committee Meeting was held this past Wednesday, Oct. 2 at the Armory with a large turnout of agencies.

Winter was the primary topic of discussion, and how varied agencies plan to respond to its inevitable treacherousness and potential problems.

Representatives were present from the Department of Lands and Forest Service, fire departments, the Idaho Transportation Department, police and sheriff departments, the Boundary Community Hospital, American Red Cross, Emergency Medical Services, the Superintendent of Boundary County Schools, the National Weather Service, the Cabinet Mountain Water District, Boundary County Road and Bridge Department, a Ham Radio Operator and representative for the local club, and the Boundary County Chaplain Corps.

Rumors of a harsh cold and dryer than normal winter were crushed when the representative from the National Weather Service spoke. This year’s winter weather trend is that temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be right around what it is normally for Bonners Ferry, which averages about 55 inches of annual snowfall.

For the next several weeks, however, temps will remain below normal and Bonners Ferry will have above-normal precipitation.

Other topics of discussion were road construction, plowing issues for the upcoming winter season, and multi-agency cooperation.

The Idaho Transportation Department representative reported on the many roads projects that are in progress and planned for the future fiscal years. The more immediate projects happening with ITD are the Rock Creek Slide rehabilitation and the road construction on Main Street.

The Rock Creek slide on Highway 95 is in process of being completed and is scheduled to be finished by late October. Watch for signal lights as Highway 95 is currently one lane at that area while work is being done.

The Main Street projects are aimed at providing more safety with crosswalks. Islands are being planned for the center of the road in various spots. The islands will help people who are using crosswalks to safely make it across or at least to the center island to wait safely until it is safe to continue the crossing of the highway.

The curb and sidewalks are on schedule to be finished by the end of October.

ITD has been working with Idaho Fish and Game in an effort to identify wildlife for Chronic Wasting Disease. Roadkill is collected and tested for the dangerous disease that has been identified in wildlife in Libby, Montana. No wildlife tested to date has tested positive for the disease.

The ITD representative reported that they have nine full-time and two part-time employees for the three plows with wings and front plows, and the two trucks with front-only plows. They will be using the two de-icer trucks this year loaded with brine.

The use of brine is preferred as it is easier on vehicles and easier to wash off of vehicles.

The Boundary County Road and Bridge department representative talked about the plan to become fully staffed within the next few weeks to prepare for this coming winter work. The department aims to provide seven days per week coverage for plowing needs this season.

The Department of Lands and Forest Service representative reported that burn permits are being issued for almost everything except for the larger slash piles at this time.

May 10 to Oct. 20 is a closed burning season. Anytime after Oct. 20 is open burning. People can call the office or go online to issue a burn permit themselves.

The Boundary County Sheriff’s Department is hosting a class on winter driving for those residents who are new to the area or new to driving in snow. The dates are to be announced.

The Boundary Amateur Radio Club received a grant from Burlington Northern Santa Fe to buy a new repeater for Black Mountain. The leftover money from the grant for the repeater was used to purchase a Ham Radio for the county sheriff’s office to be put in the new command truck.

On Oct 22, the Boundary Community Hospital will be involved in a training exercise with Bonner General Hospital. The training will focus on an accident on a bridge with a bus. Lifeflight will also be involved in the training.

The committee meetings are held once monthly and are open to the public. Meetings are scheduled for the first Wednesday of every month at 8 a.m. inside the Armory.

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