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Neighborhood group rallies during outage
When the high winds knocked out the power on Mercer Island last month a neighborhood disaster group of 42 households received its first real test of self reliance.
The 59th and 60th Streets Neighborhood Disaster Group, which formed last spring using the city’s model and neighborhood map, is composed of four blocks located across the street of the south end of Island Crest Park. Members of the group used the experience to become better neighbors.
“All in all, it was a great coming together of everyone,” said Andrea Scholl, one of the residents and a leader of the group. “Personally, I never dreamed I would be concerned about people that lived three blocks away from me. But here we are taking care of one another.”
On Friday, Dec. 15, the four neighborhood captains met to walk the entire neighborhood and assess both the damage and dangers in the vicinity. Just down the street from Scholl’s house on Island Crest Way and S.E. 60th Street was a large downed Douglas Fir. Since city maintenance crews were dedicated to clearing out Island Crest Way, most of that tree was moved to the side of the road that morning.
After the rain and wind buffeted the Island in mid December, beyond a couple of damaged roofs there was nothing serious to worry about, Scholl wrote in a report she prepared. But when the temperatures dropped that night and the Island was without power or heat, the captains began to worry about three households in the neighborhood — one with two young children and another two with older single women.
“We were really concerned for the homes with the toddlers and the elderly widows. I checked with them everyday. But everybody else was basically ok,” Scholl said.
“The hero of the neighborhood was Lorne Jacobson who patched roofs, cut kindling, and generally looked after one of our neighbors who lives alone,” Scholl wrote in an e-mail to the neighborhood.
Jacobson watched after the two women. While the neighborhood captains found a warm home for them to stay in, the two decided they’d remain in their own homes. So Jacobson built their fires, chopped wood and kindling to help keep them warm.
He also patched two roofs that were damaged from falling debris. He was concerned the heavy rains would return and cause more even more damage.
Jacobson, like Scholl, agrees that the event brought the community closer. He credited Scholl for organizing the neighborhood disaster group and thought the storm was an opportunity for him to get to know his neighbors better.
“I want other people to (organize) — we were able to do all these things for ourselves,” Scholl explained. “It provides a great sense of responsibility. If we weren’t organized then there would probably be only two neighbors I feel I know well enough that I could call them to make sure they’re ok.”
“This is what neighbors are supposed to do,” Jacobson said. “We’ve got your back.”