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Washington, D.C. — Earlier this week, President Donald Trump signed H.R. 2345, the “National Suicide Hotline Improvements Act of 2018,” which the White House says “requires the Federal Communications Commission, in coordination with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs, to study the feasibility of designating a three-digit dialing code for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system.”

HB 2345, sponsored by Congressman Chris Stewart in the US House of Representatives, and its companion bill, sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch in the US Senate is the first step toward getting a nationwide three-digit code, like 911, designated to helping those with suicide thoughts and other mental health issues.

Utah Senator Daniel Thatcher has been championing this issue since 2013.

“It has consumed my life, and this is a giant leap in the right direction,” said Thatcher. “We’re all familiar with 911, which is used for emergencies, and I’m sure none of us under 50 remember life before 911. This legislation directs the FCC to look at the efficacy of the other 3-digit numbers and will set one up for mental health. This legislation is a huge deal! It is to mental health what 911 is to physical health. We lose more Utahns under 25 to mental health than to physical health. When it fully materializes, people who are contemplating suicide will have a 3-digit dial code to call, like 611, and there will be professionals answering calls to help people get through a crisis.”

The FCC will examine all 3-digit numbers, from 211-811, and decide which number is best. Thatcher is betting on 611.

So, what are all the 3-digit numbers currently used for? Let’s take a look:

  • 211: Set up for government services. People can call and get help for unemployment, for example.
  • 311: This is a vanity phone number for local governments. For example, if you have a briefcase in a New York City taxi, they will help you track it down. Thatcher says “311 does the same thing as 211.”
  • 411: Not officially designated, but the FCC gave conditional approval for temporary use in 1993, but is widely known and used for information services.
  • 511: Nationwide traffic and weather hotline. Used in some places to call and make sure roads are safe.
  • 611: Not officially designated, the FCC gave conditional permission for telecom to use 611 for customer service. Thatcher says this is the least critical of these numbers, and the most likely to be chosen.
  • 711: This is for the hearing impaired, for tele text.
  • 811: This is the call before you dig a hole in your background hotline. It gets the utility companies to mark out your property before digging a hole — to avoid cutting a electrical or gas line.
  • 911: Easily the best-known number in the world.

 

Suicide

Senator Dan Thatcher, with his wife, Summer.

The History

Thatcher has been working on this legislation in his home state of Utah since 2013.

”We discussed what to do with tip reporting on phone lines, and we learned that if a kid calls a suicide line it could take hours to get back with him. It just wasn’t staffed properly,” said Thatcher. “I knew we needed 24/7 coverage with mental health professionals. We needed texting capability, and we needed a phone number that people could remember. A 10-digit number isn’t something people could easily remember.”

So, Thatcher said he tried to get a 3-digit code passed in Utah.

“I wanted 311 to go to Utah for counseling services,” he said. “I worked with local leaders, and it just didn’t happen. We tried really hard to get it done. So, right now we’re using a national life line number. Most people don’t remember 10-digit numbers.”

After failing to get support in Utah, Thatcher approached Senator Hatch and Representative Stewart and they immediately saw the need. They called in experts and they conducted a round table to see how to best approach this. The group saw the value of designating a 3-digit number on a national scale.

Their bill, called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act was passed in the US Congress several weeks ago, and was just signed Tuesday by President Trump.

Senator Hatch’s office released this statement:

“With this topic, my heart is both heavy and hopeful—heavy because suicide has already taken so many lives; hopeful because this legislation can turn the tide in the campaign against this epidemic,” said Hatch. “With this bill, we can prevent countless tragedies and help thousands of men and women get the help they so desperately need. I’m grateful this lifesaving proposal has been signed into law.”

Representative Stewart’s office released this statement:

“This is a great day for Utah and a great day for the Nation. We now have the opportunity to make the National Suicide Prevention Hotline more accessible and easier to remember. By creating a hotline dialing code that is short and easy to remember, we are taking an important step towards potentially averting tragedy.  This new law truly has the ability to save lives. I’m grateful that the President signed this into law in a timely manner.”

It was a fantastic day for Thatcher, as well.

”I don’t think people understand what just happened,” said Thatcher. “I think we’ll look back and wonder how we ever lived without this. I may be crying all day.”

Editor’s Note: We know Senator Thatcher because he helped co-sponsor a bill in Utah that built on our #MarchKindness campaign. In Utah, the bill became known as #MSDKindness and encouraged citizens across Utah to conducts acts of kindness to honor those students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, FL.

Suicide

Senator Dan Thatcher, with his wife, Summer.

Camas, WA — Camas Mayor Scott Higgins officially proclaimed April 2018 as the city’s #MSDKindness Month at Monday night’s City Council meeting. The proclamation is in honor of the shooting victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, and urges all citizens to honor those lives be performing random acts of kindness.

Higgins used his mayor’s time on the council agenda to bring attention to Lacamas Magazine’s #MarchKindness campaign, of which he was a part. The campaign encourages readers to report acts of kindness or service, which have been reported daily during the month of March.

“Out of that has become an interesting movement where not only are other cities looking at naming Kindness months, but states have done so, as well,” said Higgins. “If I understand correctly, Utah has done it for next month, and I think other states are following suit, as well. It’s really a neat, national thing that has its roots in Camas, WA, so we wanted to just play a part in that, and will have a proclamation read.”

When the campaign was officially adopted by Utah, it was renamed #MSDKindness and continues to spread.

The proclamation pays tribute to the victims:

  • Alaina Petty, 14;
  • Alex Schaffer, 14;
  • Alyssa Alhadeff, 14;
  • Cara Loughran, 14;
  • Gina Montalto, 14;
  • Jaime Gutenberg, 14;
  • Martin Duque Anguiano, 14;
  • Luke Hoyer, 15;
  • Peter Wang, 15;
  • Carmen Schentrup, 16;
  • Helena Ramsay, 17;
  • Joaquin Oliver, 17;
  • Nicholas Dworet, 17;
  • Meadow Pollack, 18;
  • Scott Beigel, 35;
  • Aaron Feis, 37;
  • Chris Hixon, 49

“Whereas, the victims of this tragedy living exemplary lives of selfless service and showing love toward others, and Whereas, on behalf of the citizens of Camas, we pay tribute to these victims’ courageous acts of valor, their many acts of service, their kind natures and the many contributions to society they made during their lives. NOW THEREFORE, I, Scott Higgins, Mayor of the City of Camas, do hereby proclaim April, 2018, as #MSDKindness Month in the city of Camas, and urge all citizens to honor those lives by performing random acts of kindness.”

Washougal Mayor, Molly Coston, issued a similar proclamation last week for her city. She proclaimed April 2018 as #MSDKindness Month.

Citizens are encouraged to perform acts of service and kindness throughout the month and to report good things they see on social media accounts using #MSDKindness.

”We believe showing acts of service or kindness will help us get to the source of so many problems,” said Ryan Petty, the father of Alaina Petty, who was killed in the Douglas High School shooting. “It’s one part of resolving these senseless shootings.”

To learn more, visit www.MSDKindnessMonth.com

 

#MSDKindness

The council listens to information from city employees.

 

I’ve spent half of Thursday sobbing at my desk upon learning that one of the Florida shooting victims is the daughter of a longtime friend, Ryan Petty. For some reason, I didn’t make the connection at first until my former editor brought it to my attention. Then, the emotions all came crashing down.

I had done my best to avoid listening to the details of the mass murders — even with my love of journalism I just didn’t want to hear anymore about it. When I was at Camas High School last Thursday, I thought about those kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. During that drive, I said a personal prayer for their safety as those Papermakers headed off to compete at State. They could have been my kids, your kids, my friend’s kids. And, just 15 minutes after driving away from the State teams send-off, I learned it was my friend’s child.

Alaina Petty, a 14-year-old Latter-day Saint girl was gunned down by Nikolas Cruz — along with many others. She was guilty of nothing. She was a happy, active teenager, like many here in Camas, Washougal, and throughout the world.

Her father and I chat about BMW’s, the latest technological advances, my tenure at Amazon, and I often just refer to him as a “geek.” It’s a longstanding joke between us. Ryan and I served together in Ecuador, serving our church and finding ways to help others. And, that’s the kind of family he has.

I can’t even imagine the grief and shock that Ryan, Kelly and their family are going through. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare turned reality, and it’s playing out in the national media. There will be funerals, memorials, tributes — and there will be a courtroom trial. All with the glare of television cameras and reporters.

Their lives have changed forever.

Petty

Alaina Petty. Photo courtesy of Petty family.

So, how did we get here? And how do we resolve it?

Family Therapist, Julie Russell, says when people become isolated they act out in outrageous ways — and that’s why we keep seeing these tragedies unfold.

“Broken homes, neglect, abuse all contribute to society’s problems,” said Russell. “Sometimes all a teen needs is to know that someone really cares and loves them.”

I’ve listened to all the reports about Cruz’s mental instability and the all the red flags that led up to this horrific mass murder. People are calling for additional gun control, new legislation, more armed guards, more security, more funding for mental health. I say debate it all and do it in a civil way. But, don’t talk forever. Our society needs to act.

Cindy Giovanni, a former Superintendent in Columbia, MO advocates for the following:

  • Get AR-15 rifles off the streets.
  • Fund mental health initiatives (local, state and national).

Local representatives call for greater funding for school resource officers in every school — even elementary schools. I say do it.

But, my gut instinct tells me no President, Mayor, Congressperson, legislation or policy can ever get into — and repair the hearts of individuals. A sick, demented, evil person will always find a way to wreak havoc. There are some people that like to watch the world burn.

So, while the politicians debate and play the blame game, what can you do right now?

Be loving, respectful, charitable to those closest to you.

Lift others around you.

Do something kind for those in your mind may least deserve it. You never know what’s happening in one’s heart or mind. People act out because they feel anger, insecurity, pain, suffering, loneliness. The list goes on and on.

Imagine a world in which we all do one nice thing for someone next to you. The world could change in an instant.

Sweet Alaina Petty didn’t deserve this. Her family is forever changed. Their little girl is gone.

The Petty family’s faith will bouy them, and they have a community that loves and supports them.

“We love you, too,” Ryan Petty told me. “Hug those kids of yours!”

For now, pray for them, and for all the families affected by this madness. Act by showing kindness to others. Be patient. Love others. Make it a point to do something nice for someone else each day.

The Petty family has asked everyone to donate funds to help Maddy Wilford, a friend of Alaina’s, to assist with her recovery. She was shot, and was severely injured during this tragedy. They do this as they prepare for their daughter’s funeral.

https://www.gofundme.com/maddy-wilford

Thank you for reading.

Love, Ernie Geigenmiller

Petty

The Petty Family. Before moving to Florida, they lived in Washington — in Seattle metro.

A well attended Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Wednesday night at Lacamas Lake Lodge was filled with varied opinions, emotional pleas, and ideas that demonstrated a city torn between preserving the local landmark, Crown Park Pool, and looking toward the future.

At issue is the 64-year-old Crown Park Pool, which is shut down because it doesn’t meet current health codes. At minimum, it would cost $300,000 to meet code, but that would only be a short-term band-aid. To get the pool functioning properly would cost the city $2.2 million — and it would still remain a summer pool that’s operational three months a year.

Parks and Recreation Commission President, Randy Curtis, said he was pleased with the 25-person turnout to view the proceedings.

“We’re pleased to have this kind of turnout,” he said. “The social media folks got a lot information out and that’s a good thing. Now we’re dealing with specific recommendations, and there will be time for public comments.”

Camas Parks and Rec Manager, Jerry Acheson, then presented the attendees with the Crown Park Pool history and master plan. He said the pool has undergone maintenance over the years, and that the public has responded to surveys on prospective plans.

The one consensus: The public wants some kind of pool.

Pool

Twenty-five people attended the Parks and Rec meeting.

He reviewed specific plans calling for a leisure pool, a water feature, and simply renovating the existing pool. What would the impact on traffic be at Crown Park with a new leisure pool? Not good, he said.

“We asked is this the right location for a new pool?” He said. “The answer was no. We thought ‘where would we build a new pool?’ Then we thought we should just focus on Crown Park. So, we reviewed adding a water feature and modernizing the park.”

After extensive research, Acheson said in November the commission recommended to City Council an option that Crown Park have no pool, but rather a new look and water feature. The cost: $3.2 million.

They also urged the council to start a new process to build a new pool in Camas — at a location not yet determined.

Pool — Public Comments

After Acheson’s presentation, 13 residents commented — and their opinions varied from building a new, state-of-the-art facility to preserving the Crown Park Pool. One thing was clear — there wasn’t enthusiasm for a water feature at Crown Park.

Colleen Purwins said she represented her daughter, Jacqueline, who’s a diver for Camas.

“My daughter wants a new pool facility with a 1-meter diving board so kids who want to learn how to dive can do so without having to train in Beaverton. She’s even willing to help out,” said Purwins.

Wayne Patterson advocated for a new pool and recreation center, and said he experienced the positive side of building such a facility in an Alaska town, where he lived previously.

Shannon Larson expressed her love of teaching kids how to swim.

”We can build a facility that can be profitable — or at least break even,” said Shannon Larson. “But what’s closest to my heart is to make sure that kids know how to swim …”

Pool

A Camas resident expresses her opinion.

Anastasia McDonnell advocated for the pool to stay, and doesn’t want a water feature.

”I want to preserve the current feel,” McDonnell said. “It’s the crown jewel of our town.”

Charity Feb said: “We love Crown Park Pool. It’s great to be able to afford this — to have it for the kids.”

Several others expressed similar sentiments — wanting to keep the pool and preserve the current look of Crown Park. Nobody was in vocal support of a water feature.

Niki Cantrell made a very emotional plea for a new state-of-the-art aquatic center.

”I have a swimmer,” Cantrell said. “For some kids, swimming is their only sport — it’s what they can do. We have a whole slew of kids in this town who travel extensively to compete, and I think this town needs an indoor/outdoor facility. We need to have something year-round so the whole community can enjoy it.”

City councilor Bonnie Carter reemphasized that “even if we have the money to repair it, just to meet code, the Crown Park Pool would still be closed for repairs this summer.”

Curtis said the city administrators heard from 20 residents via email on Wednesday alone advocating “for a new state-of-art pool.”

What’s next?

Curtis said the City Council will hear all public input from the meeting, along with recommendations, and they will decide how to proceed. Three city councilors were present at Wednesday’s meeting.

The City Council will meet this weekend at Lacamas Lake Lodge for their annual planning meeting to discuss this issue. The public is invited to attend, however, there is no opportunity for public comment.

To learn more, visit www.cityofcamas.us

Photo Gallery

A Special Election is being held on February 13 to address four measures across several Clark County cities.

Here are the four resolutions that citizens will vote on:

  • City of Camas Resolution No. 17-016: This concerns the renewal of the city’s expiring Emergency Medical Services (EMS) levy. The proposition calls for a levy each year for a period of six consecutive years beginning in 2019, and will be a general tax on taxable property within city limits — in an amount not to exceed $0.46 per $1,000 of assessed value of such property. The levy will provide funds for continued EMS services.
  • Battle Ground has a proposal to relieve overcrowding and improve infrastructure in its schools.
  • Evergreen Schools has a resolution concerting a general obligation bond to provide funds to construct, equip, renovate and make certain capital improvements throughout the school district.
  • La Center School District has a resolution concerning a proposition to relieve overcrowding and improve infrastructure in several schools.

Key Dates:

  • Military/overseas ballots mailed – January 12
  • Deadline to update your existing registration – January 15
  • Deadline to register online – January 15
  • Deadline to register by mail – Postmarked by January 15
  • Ballots mailed – January 26
  • Deadline for new Washington voter registrations (in person only) – February 5

There are three ways to register, if you haven’t done so:

  • Online if you have a Washington sate ID or driver’s license.
  • In person at the Clark County Elections Office at 1408 Franklin St. Vancouver
  • By mail with a voter registration form available by mail or download from the office of Secretary of State.

For registration information, visit https://www.clark.wa.gov/elections/voter-registration

More full details on the election, see https://www.clark.wa.gov/elections

In order to earn their Girl Scout Bronze Award, local twins Julia and Grace Hines decided to help out the Portland VA Fisher House by donating board and video games to ensure children of Veterans and active duty service members have something to do, and to life their spirits during their temporary stay.

“Thank you to local Girl Scouts and sisters Julia and Grace who donated board games and video games to the Portland VA Fisher House last week! The sisters raised their own money to purchase the games …,” said Fisher House in an official statement.

The VA Portland Fisher House, located on the Vancouver Campus, is “a home away from home” for families of Veterans and military service members who are hospitalized. It may also serve family and caregivers of Veterans who are receiving extended outpatient specialty care, such as oncology care, at our various specialty clinics.

Julia and Grace are 11 year-old twins and have been in Girl Scouts since kindergarten. They developed a plan to help Fisher House to earn their Bronze Award, which is the highest award a Girl Scout Junior can receive.  The goal of the Bronze Award is to make a lasting impact in an area of need in the community. The girls had to identify a community need, make a plan to help, put that plan into motion and then spread the word. They identified Fisher House as having a need.

“Fisher House is a ‘home away from home’ for families of Veterans and military service member who are hospitalized,” said Gina Hines, the twins’ mom. “It may also serve family and caregivers of Veterans who are receiving extended outpatient specialty care, such as oncology care, at their various specialty clinics.”

Julie and Grace contacted Fisher House and found out they needed board and video games for the young residents ages 8-15 as they didn’t have many games to play. The girls raised all the money themselves by organizing, cleaning, tagging and selling their toys and clothing at the local JBF sale. They then took all that money and shopped stores, garage sales, and thrift stores looking for the perfect games for older kids who stay at Fisher House.

The goal was to buy as many engaging games as possible that would provide entertainment, stress relief and lift the spirits of children of Veterans and active duty service members who stay at the Vancouver Fisher House. Julia and Grace plan on starting their Silver Award next year. They also plan on starting a charity project (or two) and a business to help pay for their Girl Scout projects.

Their participation in Girl Scouts has helped them build courage, confidence, and has given them a desire to help give back and improve not only their community, but the world around them, said Hines.

Fisher

Julie and Grace presented the VA Fisher House with new board and video games.

 

This afternoon, a few protesters gathered in front of Camas High School to protest the current production of “The Laramie Project” by the school’s drama department. Some students interacted with the protestors, and security was called to the scene.

CHS Principal Liza Sejkora issued the following statement:

CHS Families,

This afternoon there were two individuals expressing their religious beliefs, via signs and a bullhorn, across from the Camas High School bus parking area as students were leaving for the day. This event created a commotion and, unfortunately, some strong feelings and expletives were expressed.

The CHS security team, administrators, and the School Resource Officer were on site ensuring the visitors stayed on the public sidewalk away from students. The visitors left after the CHS students departed.

This protest was likely brought to our campus in response to the CHS drama department’s presentation of The Laramie Project—the story of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual student from the University of Wyoming, who was brutally murdered in 1998. To learn more about why we selected The Laramie Project, read Director Sean Kelly’s notes.

We want you to have context about the incident today in case your student(s) have questions.

Sincerely,

Liza Sejkora
Principal

Director Sean Kelly’s Statement

I have had a difficult time trying to decide what needs to be written about this show. I suppose I need to start with a few assertions that I believe to be true: opposition to prejudice should not be a political issue, but these days it seems to be. Opposition to those who would commit violence should not be a political issue, but these days it seems to be. And most importantly, this: we desperately need to start listening to one another.

Empathy is a skill that must be practiced. The best way to practice it, in my opinion, is to listen to the stories of others’ struggles. If we consciously practice empathy while doing so, we begin to discover that we have a lot more in common than we ever imagined. It’s a lot harder to hate someone once you get to know them and what they are up against. Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and murdered because he was gay. His story sparked a national conversation that we are still having today.

When I was a young man, I was harassed and threatened, shunned and whispered about in my hometown. Once, a couple of men in a pickup threw a 32-ounce soda at me as they drove past and yelled “faggot”. They circled the block a few times and shouted obscenities and threatened to assault me. I can’t claim to fully understand the challenges that a member of the LGBTQ community faces because I am not a member of that community, except as an ally. But my experiences as someone who was targeted by hatred based on what other people thought they saw was a revelation. How must it be to fear this every day of one’s life?

When I visited Laramie a few years ago, years after the death of Matthew Shepard, what struck me the most was how much like my hometown it appeared to be. It seemed a place that was idyllic and easy, with a beautiful view. There were places that were rough around the edges, and it seemed in every way like it could be any town in the USA. And that, I suppose, is what troubled me the most. The stories of the people in this play sounded far too familiar.

Hate groups have been reawakened. Violence and harassment have never gone away, but there has been an increase in violence targeted at minorities and LGBTQ people. We feel it everywhere we go: our relationships are strained and uneasy. Everyone is on edge about something. It has been 19 years since Matthew Shepard died, and it seems tensions around this topic are only more strained than ever. But I reassert these things that I hold true:

Opposition to prejudice should not be a political issue.

Opposition to those who would commit violence should not be a political issue.

We desperately need to start listening to one another.

Father Roger Schmitt:  “When you are called a fag, and you are called… a dyke, that is the seed of violence.”

Perfomances

“The Laramie Project” continues its performances this Friday at 7 pm, and Saturday at 2 and 7 pm.

To learn more, visit www.chs.camas.wednet.edu

Laramie

The simple set allowed free flow of discussion.

Laramie

Camas, WA — Camas residents aren’t too thrilled about the City of Camas selling public lands to build a senior living center near Round Lake on Everett Road. Opponents of the development will hear details at a City of Camas Parks Board meeting, to be held this Wednesday, October 25 at Lacamas Lake Lodge.

The Parks Board will review the proposal, and may ask for additional input to continue the discussion, or they may settle on a recommendation and forward that to planning. Additional public hearings will be scheduled to discuss the matter and give citizens input.

The uproar began when Camas City Council members last week approved the first re-zoning step that would turn a 2.7-acre parcel of public land into a new development for seniors. Additional private lands would also be purchased. The proposed development is a 125,000 square-foot, 81-unit senior living center with underground parking, as well as a 48-bed memory care center.

The councilors were informed that city staff was approached by a developer who wants to purchase public lands to construct the facility. It was learned soon after that developer is Tim Hazen, who abruptly resigned from his city council seat last week.

Hazen is the owner of Premiere Senior Living

The city of Camas purchased the 5-acre open space from the Moose Lodge in 2002 for $200,000.

Citizens are concerned that once you lose an open space property, it will never be preserved for future generations.

“My thoughts are that the city shouldn’t be able to sell public land without the consent of its citizens since it IS public land,” said local resident, Liana Gulzow. “And the fact that Tim Hazen would benefit from this — and he was a former city council member — is just not sitting well with a lot of people. I’m concerned that this huge senior living facility is so close to Round Lake that it could affect the use of the trails that so many of us frequently use. And, not to mention the traffic situation.”

Camas residents have taken to social media to express their concerns, as well.

“Our city should not be selling public park land,” said Ammon Child. “Especially to a recently resigned city council member who clearly has been working on this behind the scenes!”

In order to re-zone, Camas leaders must hold a series of public meetings to change the parcel’s zoning, which is currently parks open space.

City Councilwoman Bonnie Carter said she thinks the city is setting a bad precedent.

“The only thing that was requested of the council was to direct staff to submit paperwork to the state to have the parcel of land considered for re-zoning,” said Carter. “This request was unusual because it did not first go through the normal channels of review before going to council, but it is legal. The rezoning request deadline to the state was last Wednesday, hence the unusual request. Mr. Hazen’s experience on council and city planning knowledge played into the timing.”

Carter assures that the project will still go through the appropriate channels starting with Wednesday’s meeting.

“Lack of information concerning the actual request of council and what will still happen has many folks upset,” said Carter. “And rightfully so.”

Hazen will present his proposal, and there will be an open process wherein citizens can express their opinions on the matter.

To learn more about this process, visit http://www.cityofcamas.us/businessdev/plancommission

It’s been a month since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and as first responders and local leaders face the herculean task to get necessary supplies to millions of victims, one Portland resident shares his story of trying to get his family out of harm’s way.

Rio Rios, 49, is a Puerto Rico native, and although he’s lived most of his life in the United States mainland, his parents (Luis and Virginia), sister (Yanira), niece (Natasha) and nephew (Gabriel) were caught in harm’s way as Maria threw an already struggling Puerto Rico into the dark ages.

“Eighty-five percent of the island is still without power,” said Rios. “And the water situation is dire. Water-wise, it’s hard to keep things clean because when the water does come it’s contaminated, and only 60 percent have water. There’s no money, no work, no economy. Even the banks are closed. ATMs don’t work. Basic necessities aren’t easy to find. Traffic lights don’t work, which backs up traffic for miles.”

To put it in perspective, the island is 100 miles long and 30 miles wide, and has 3 million-plus people living there, he said. It’s densely populated.

In Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, where his family resides, homes keep their lights on by using gas-powered portable generators at sporadic times during the day, which is causing some pollution issues.

“Before Hurricane Maria hit, life in Puerto Rico was already difficult,” Rios said. “And now it’s ten times worse.”

Since Maria wreaked its havoc, Rios has worked hard to communicate with his family, sending them needed supplies, and keeping current, but given the dire situation there, he and his wife, Allison Anderson, offered to bring his mother, sister, and youngest nephew to Portland.

“Given mom’s health issues, and that my sister cannot work and provide for her family, we decided to bring them here. It’s what family does,” said Rios. “My father has decided to stay there, for now, and so has my niece.”

Anderson has been preparing her office, which will be turned into a bedroom.

“It’s been so sad to see them go through this,” said Anderson. “It’s devastating to see such a beautiful place be destroyed.”

The couple will receive Virginia on October 22, and Yanira and Gabriel on October 30.

They are presently looking for employment for Yanira, who is a speech pathologist, and for a school for Gabriel to attend.

“This whole tragedy has been devastating,” said Rios. “I’m an American citizen, I’m a veteran, I served in the Gulf War, but I grew up in Puerto Rico. This where I was formed and shaped. I’m really sad about what’s happened to my family. Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico. And, I wasn’t able to protect my family.”

Agriculture is a big part of the economy there, but given the hurricane’s devastation, new crop harvests are a year away.

“They can’t find cheap food,” Rios said. “The magnitude of the problem overwhelms everyone, especially the first responders who have been working so hard.”

Rios urges everyone to take emergency preparedness seriously.

“Let’s get the word out about having a 72-hour kit, about having 30 days worth of food in a storage closet,” he said. “People make fun of those who prepare, but it’s a good idea. Look at the reality of what’s happened in Puerto Rico. Don’t you think those people would appreciate a 30-day supply of food on-hand?”

He said canned meat is prized right now, as fresh meat can’t be easily preserved without electricity.

“It’s a major humanitarian crisis,” he said. “This is like every post-apocalyptic movie I’ve ever seen, except it’s real. It can happen.”

Puerto Rico Fundraiser

Over the past weekend, several Puerto Ricans gathered together to raise funds for their devastated brothers and sisters. The benefit featured live music, a live auction, and lots of food. They raised $24,000 in funds that will go directly to Puerto Rico.

To learn more, visit: https://www.youcaring.com/flores

Gallery: Images from Puerto Rico

 

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WASHOUGAL, WA— The Eagle Creek Fire jumped the Columbia River early this morning from Oregon and sparked the Archer Mountain Fire in Skamania County.  At this time, Department of Natural Resources crews are hard at work. This fire is causing some of the smoke and ash that can be seen falling on the Washougal and Camas communities, although most of the ash and debris in the air is coming from Eagle Creek across the Columbia River.

While there are some isolated evacuations in Skamania County, there are currently no fires or evacuations in Clark County or within Washougal city limits.  Please avoid traveling on SR 14 due to heavy congestion.

Clark County has activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in partial operations as of this morning, in support of our response partners.

To sign up for emergency alerts and notifications in CLARK County, click here.

For Skamania County Emergency Notifications, please sign up at http://www.PublicAlerts.org

Skamania County Evacuations

Skamania County officials say the Archer Mountain Fire is currently sitting at 25 acres on top of Archer Mountain. Fire crews are working hard to contain the fire.

Level 3 (which means leave immediately) Notifications are now in affect for:
– Mclosky Creek Rd
– Archer Mt. Rd
– Smith Cripe Rd
– Franz Rd
– Kellet Rd
– Victoria Lane
-Dimrill Dale Drive

Level 2 Notifications are now in affect for:
– Foggy Ridge
– Patrick Lane
– Hillsberry Rd
– Columbia Ridge
– Mabee Mines Rd
– Columbia Ridge Rd

Level 1 Notifications are now in affect for:
– Bear Creek Rd
– Borden Rd
– Old State Rd
– Deville Rd *new*
– Wakina Rd *new*