At first glance, it may seem inappropriate to talk about natural disasters during the holidays, but unfortunately that’s often when some of the worst weather-related crises have occurred in West Marin.

Moreover, I’ve been asked by Anne Sands, the new West Marin Disaster Council coordinator, to publish her letter to the community. So I’m doing so below.

On New Year’s Eve in 2005, a rainstorm caused Papermill/Lagunitas Creek to flood. The Point Reyes-Petaluma Road was inundated in several locations, and one was at the now-closed Rich Readimix plant near Platform Bridge. Even before the flood crested, the car of a passing San Francisco Chronicle delivery driver got caught in the current and overturned near the plant.

Downstream, low-lying areas of Point Reyes Station were also flooded that New Year’s Eve and Day. ________________________________________________________________

On Jan. 4, 1982, a ferocious storm caused floods and landslides which destroyed homes in Inverness and left a San Geronimo Valley resident permanently paralyzed. _______________________________________________________________

Not all the disasters that periodically hit West Marin are related to the weather, of course. With the San Andreas Fault running under Bolinas Lagoon, up the Olema Valley, and the length of Tomales Bay, major earthquakes can be expected from time to time. The April 18, 1906, earthquake along the fault killed 3,000 people around the Bay Area and overturned this train in Point Reyes Station. _______________________________________________________________

And when the weather is dry and windy — as it unseasonably is now — wildfires are a continual threat. In July 1929, the Great Mill Valley Fire (above) charred Mount Tamalpais from Mill Valley to the peak and destroyed 117 homes. ________________________________________________________________

The Inverness Ridge Fire in October 1995 was also exacerbated by high winds and dry weather.

The “Mount Vision Fire,” as it is alternately known, destroyed 45 homes and blackened 15 percent of the Point Reyes National Seashore.

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Because the chance of more such disasters in the future is real, I will now let West Marin Disaster Council coordinator Anne Sands of Dogtown use this space to present a strong case for being prepared.

Anne, by the way, is a former president of the Bolinas Fire Protection District’s board of directors.

She’s also an equestrian and told me, “I am rarely away from a horse at any given time.” Here she rides in the Western Weekend Parade a couple of years ago.

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Dear West Marin residents, It’s New Year’s Resolution time again! What about that disaster-preparedness class you have been meaning to take?

A major earthquake can hit anywhere around the infamous Pacific Ring of Fire, the great circle of tectonic activity created by the Pacific plate [of the earth’s crust] rubbing against its neighboring plates.

And we in West Marin are right on that Ring of Fire.

One of the best things we can do as a community to survive the next earthquake, tsunami, winter storm or wildfire is to increase the number of us who have learned basic disaster-preparedness and response skills.

A series of Pacific storms caused widespread damage in Stinson Beach during January and March of 1983. This is Calle del Ribera. (Point Reyes Light photo)

These skills include first aid, triage, communications, team building, and search and rescue. Immediately after a disaster, it will be impossible for our firefighters, EMTs, and other qualified medical people to take care of everyone who needs immediate help. We must be prepared to extend the capacity of our local emergency responders by becoming trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members.

The fire departments of West Marin are offering a two-day CERT course on Saturday, Jan. 11, and Saturday, Jan. 18., at the Nicasio Corporation Yard. Many West Marin residents have taken these classes and are already involved in local disaster preparedness.

Paul Gallagher’s dog appropriately carries a buoy as Mesa Road floods in Point Reyes Station during the New Year’s Eve storm of 2005.

You can join your neighbors and friends to make our communities more self-reliant and able to cope with disasters. There are no pre-qualifications for this training , and you do not have to be in “great shape.” In a widespread emergency, there are many ways to contribute your newly learned skills.

For 18 hours and $45 you can learn how to prepare yourself, your family, and your community to respond effectively. CERT class graduates receive a certificate and an Emergency Response daypack. There are scholarships available for those needing financial assistance in order to register.

Be prepared! Join CERT, the Community Emergency Response Team. To register go to www.marincountycert.org or call Maggie Lang at 415 485-3409.

Thank you for taking CERT.

Anne Sands, West Marin Disaster Council Coordinator <annewmdc@gmail.com> 415 868-1618.