Covid and Low Humidity

Covid-19 has killed almost 250,000 Americans and infected 11,000,0000 or more.  On Friday November 13th, Johns Hopkins reported 184,000 new cases of covid-19.  Deaths are on the increase as well, going from 700 deaths/day in September to over 1100/day now.  According to the Covid Tracking Project, almost half the states are reporting record covid-19 hospitalizations.  This disease is  surging  in the US., Washington, and Clark County.  The  Covid Tracking Project was created for The Atlantic by Alexis  Madrigal whose mother, Elizabeth, lives in Ridgefield.

Moderna and Pfizer are in trials of two very promising vaccines with over 90% success in preventing disease.  However, it will likely be a few months before these vaccines are readily available.  In the meantime, we need to follow the guidance the state and county have required.   You can’t get the disease if you are not exposed to it, nor can you pass it on if you don’t have it.  We are asked to practice social distancing, wear masks,  and practice good sanitation.

The increase in cases now is alarming and people can  get sick even if they take precautions.  The surge in the autumn was predicted.  Much of the prediction was based on the knowledge that other viral diseases increase in the autumn and winter.  Earlier this year, epidemiologists stated that with colder and drier air the virus can survive longer.  Now that is not mentioned as much.  With it being colder and darker, the emphasis is more on people being indoors and thus closer together.  In our area, rainy days are  also a reason to be indoors.

There may be another consideration and that is of a drier environment, especially indoors.  There is a bacterial disease called meningitis can be spread as an airborne.  Many years ago, I read an article that suggested that if it was too dry, then this bacterium could infect through the sinus membrane.  In Africa and Asia there are occasional epidemics of meningitis.  There was a large study done that noted that in times of extreme dryness there was an increased incidence of meningococcal disease.  The study’s authors suggested other airborne diseases could gain access  as well if it is too dry.

There was a study done by researchers at Oregon State University that researched  low humidity and influenza.  They looked at death records of people in the US noting date and location.  Then,  they looked at weather for that area at the time of the deaths.  They found a correlation between times of low humidity and death from the flu.    Another study focused on infecting susceptible rats with an influenza virus.   Some were kept in a low humidity environment and some were kept at a higher humidity.   Again, rats did better in an environment that was not too dry.  Another article about the common cold suggested colds could be more easily transmitted if the humidity is low.  Nosebleeds are more common if the humidity is low.  Dryness damages the sinuses and suppresses the immune system in both the sinuses and lungs.

Covid-19 is not meningitis, a cold, or the flu, but it is spread the same way.  It seems reasonable that the virus that causes covid-19 may be more transmissible if the air is too dry.  The study done by OSU suggested that it may be of benefit to increase the humidity indoors.  The recommendation for the most comfortable indoor humidity is 40-60%.    East of the cascades it can be very cold and dry in the winter.  Here on the west side, it is wetter.  Still, with homes being heated, the air becomes much drier.  A few weeks ago, inside my home, the humidity was only 37% when we had our first frost.  So, I’m thinking of ways to keep the humidity around 50-60%.  If we do have some very cold weather, as we sometimes do here, the inside humidity  may be very low.  It may only  help  a little with covid-19 or even with colds and flu but certainly would be more comfortable to  increase the humidity at times.

By Paul Snoey


This photograph was taken on November 1st on Simons Street near the post office.  Each fall, these  trees put on a brilliant display of color and a photo at sunset is always  intense.  Now the trees have  been cut down and there is only a row of stumps remaining.  The growth of the tree roots has broken and heaved the sidewalk, making it a hazard, and  the curb is broken in places.  So this is one last photo of these colorful trees.    

By Paul Snoey

Allen Canyon Creek

The photo above was taken of Allen Canyon Creek yesterday morning at the site where we maintain an incubator and where there were a few pools that had trapped this year’s Coho.  It is wonderfully clean and clear.  This creek flows into the Lewis River and fish are now free to migrate each way.  The heavy rains, predicted last week,  did not happen and the site above the stream with the deposit of  fill dirt did not flow offsite.   There was enough rain to restore flow.  Things worked out very well.

The contractor has agreed to improve erosion control.  If done right, it should protect the creek.  Salmon may again return to spawn later and we should  get eggs for the incubator.  Allen Canyon Creek and Gee Creek have shown they are capable of  having runs of salmon, but these streams need some help.

Bob Wallis of Wallis Engineering was helpful in discussing the importance of erosion control with the developer and contractor.  Thank you,  Bob.


By Paul Snoey


Allen Canyon Creek


Allen Canyon Creek has been dry for several weeks but has a little flow after last week’s rain.   Fish, including Coho, have been trapped in the few low places along the creek.  So, the first fall rains  have freed the trapped fish.  Allen Canyon Creek always runs very clear except for the most intense rainstorms.  It means clean gravels for fish to spawn in and for fry to hide.  This year, however, there is a new threat.  The dirt from the excavation on Mill street that will contain the future police station has been  dumped next to a ravine that flows a few hundred feet into Allen Canyon Creek.  Downstream from that is where we maintain a salmon incubator and where there are two pools with this year’s Coho fry.  I exchanged e-mails with the developer and contractor which led to the silt fence being installed.  It is  improperly installed  and not bedded.  We have heavy rain  predicted for tomorrow.  With the entire area being sloped and full of bare ground it could be very bad for a small creek.  Last week,  I reached out to lot of people in the state and then in the county to try to get something done.  But, nothing yet.  I’m dreading what will happen tomorrow.

By Paul Snoey 

Sunset In Refuge


Yesterday, in the late afternoon, it became very  smoky and these pictures were taken in the Carty Unit of our refuge.  The news about the fires in Washington, Oregon, and California is not good.   It will be over 90 degrees today and tomorrow.   What is needed is a few days of gentle soaking rain for all three states.  It may not be for some time.

By Paul Snoey

Getting A Flu Shot

The graphic above is from the  CDC and shows the impact of influenza for the past several seasons ending in 2017-2018.  No data was presented since then.   The numbers are a little hard to see, but for 2017 – 2018 the numbers are: 45 million cases, 810 thousand hospitalizations and 61,000 deaths.  Concerning the 2019-2020 season, I did hear an official state that the flu season was expected to be the worst in more than a decade but it did not happen.  It ended six weeks early and the reason is believed to be the measures taken to control the covid-19 pandemic.  What is good for controlling covid-19 works for the flu since they are transmitted much the same way.

According to the CDC, the mortality of the flu is about 0.1% and the latest from WHO is 0.6% for covid-19.  This would be 1000 deaths for each million having the flu and 6000 deaths/million from Covid-19.  

There is a concern that later this fall and winter, the combined seasons of both diseases could overwhelm health care in the US.  Things are unpredictable with a new disease and the flu and  how they both  interact and  impact us later.  The one thing we can do is get a flu shot.  The state of Massachusetts has required all students to get a flu shot and other states may follow.   I got one two weeks ago at  the Albertson’s pharmacy in Salmon Creek.  Rosaurs will have them available on September 1st.  If there ever was a time to get a flu shot, it is now.

By Paul Snoey




What if instead of a virus, we had a world wide pandemic of panthers?  It would be millions of panthers  all over the world.   There would be panthers just about everywhere.  They would be in people’s yards, in the trees, and wandering about town.  They could not be missed, these large predators.   You could describe them as biomechanical; They have jaws, claws, and four legs that could outrun anyone.  Being hungry, they would be a visible threat.  If you were in your pajamas at home you would think twice about putting on a pair of pants and going outside if a panther was lounging on the patio.  If you wanted to go to the library there might be a panther or two in the fiction section.  In your church, there could be panthers in the pews or lapping out of the baptismal.  The parsonage could have a panther in the pantry.  The presence of panthers would make for a strong effort to deal with the pandemic.

The virus that causes covid-19 is tiny.  It is about one tenth of a micron and the cell it invades is about 10 microns.  It takes an electron microscope to see it.  The virus is also biomechanical.  There is a spike protein on it that acts like a key to get inside the cell.  It latches on to a receptor on the cell surface and then can get in.  If enough viruses do this, it becomes a disease.  But unlike a panther, it is too small to be seen and it is easy to think it is not there.  Also, many people seem to think such a tiny thing won’t hurt them.  I can think of all the times on interviews I have heard people discounting it.  More than once I have heard people say that Jesus would protect them so they don’t need to wear a mask and want to go to a crowded service.  Many young people, thinking they are invincible, want to party.

All of the countries in the European Union understood the threat posed by this virus and gave a strong response that brought the disease down to a manageable level.  Many of the Asian countries such as China and Taiwan did even better.  You could say they saw the panther in the pandemic.  Because of their efforts, they didn’t damage their economies as deeply, and are in a much better position now.

In the US that did not  happen for lots of reasons:  It was a “hoax” created by the democratic party  to make the president lose the election.  Masks became a issue of party loyalty and was not a prophylaxis against a dangerous disease.  It was just a “cold”.  Businesses were pressured to open and schools were as well under threat of defunding, and so on.  Too much emphasis has been put on a vaccine that will save the day.  It may be a long time for the United States to get back up.  We may need to take the measures being taken now for some time even with a good vaccine.  It’s a bit like the poem from Ogden Nash:

                          The panther is like a leopard,
Except it hasn’t been peppered.
Should you behold a panther crouch,
Prepare to say Ouch.
Better yet, if called by a panther,
Don’t anther.


I wonder what witty poem Ogden Nash would write about covid-19.  I thought of one involving  Friar Tuck but the rhyme that came to mind was not appropriate.  So. . . . . . I’m stuck.

by Paul snoey

Real Time rtPCR Test to Detect Covid 19 Disease

Covid 19 disease is caused by a virus named SARS-COV-2. The test to detect it is called Real Time Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction(Real time rtPCR}. PCR was concieved by a California surfer named Kary Mullis and he was awarded the nobel prize for that. PCR is a way of making copies of DNA. If a double standed helix of DNA is heated it will separate into two single strands. After cooling, and if there are complementary bases in solution, a enzyme called  DNA polymerase rebuilds the strands into the double strands. So,each cycle in PCR doubles the amount of DNA. 10 cycles will create about 1000 copies and 20 cycles will make over 1,000,000 copies. Heating the copies destroys the original polymerase so each cooling cycle had to have fresh enzyme added. Then, it was discovered that the polymerase in a hot spring bacteria called Thermophilus aquatica did not denature. Using that meant the test could be done faster because it did not have to be paused to add the polymerase enzyme in each cycle.
The virus that causes covid 19 is not DNA based.  Rather,  it is single stranded RNA. To run it on a PCR machine it must be converted into DNA. So another enzyme called reverse transcriptase must be used used to covert it into DNA.
PCR only copies DNA. The test was called rtPCR.  To ID the DNA, another test must be done and that test was called gel electrophoresis.   In gel electrophoresis the amplified  DNA is placed in a gel cell and an electric current is applied.  This causes sections of the DNA to migrate.  Then, it can be compared to a known DNA.  It took much longer to do these tests and had more errors.
A new technique was developed that was faster and more accurate, It could also not only ID the virus early on, it could quantify it. This test is called Real Time rtPCR, It is a sophisticated test using probes and fluorescent markers to look for sections on the RNA strand that are unique to the virus.  Early in the test,  the virus can be identified and even quantified.  It can tell how many copies of RNA were in the sample taken from the patient.  It can not only ID the virus, it can give an idea of the load of virus the patient has and how much the patient is putting into the environment.  Real time means that one can look at the ongoing test in real time rather than waiting for the PCR and electrophoresis to be completed.

On December 31st, the Chinese government reported to the World Health Organization that there was a pneumonia in patients in Wuhan China of unknown origin.  A few days later it had been sequenced and identified as a novel(new) corona virus.  The virus and it’s disease quickly spread in  China.   A Real Time rtPCR test was developed to ID the virus.

In the US,  the CDC developed it’s own test for the virus but used different sections on the viral strand to ID the virus.  The test kits the CDC sent out for running the tests were faulty and that was a problem that had to be corrected.  Also,  there were few labs approved that could do the tests.  Another problem was  that  the CDC requirements for who could be tested was too narrow.  The patient had to show symptoms and a history of contact  to someone from China.

Since then,  more labs can do the test and there are fewer restrictions on who gets tested.  A company called Roche has a machine and test procedure that is very fast and can run many  tests and that has been approved.  Because the US is behind on testing there could be many  more cases out there and  the virus could be more widespread.  Catching up on testing is imperative.  It needs to be done along with all the other things being done in a situation that is getting worse here and much of the rest of the world.

by Paul Snoey


Ribbon Cutting for North Main Avenue

On Friday the 14th, Officials and interested citizens gathered at Overlook Park.  They were there to begin a one mile walk to the entrance of the Carty Unit of the refuge.  There were about sixty people who made the walk.  The purpose was to celebrate the completion of the improvements to North Main Avenue with a ribbon cutting.

At the entrance to the refuge, The Mayor of Ridgefield, The refuge project leader, and a spokesperson from the Federal Highway Administration made comments about the project.  Then, several children were each given a pair of scissors and the ribbon was cut.  This project was to improve access to the refuge, especially for pedestrians.  There is also a new entrance to the refuge through the port and a trail from there will take hikers along the west side of Carty Lake and join the Oaks to Wetlands trail near the Cathlapotle plank house. This will make for a loop  of a little more than five miles.  The trail by Carty Lake is closed now but may be open in a few weeks.

By Paul Snoey

Building The Arched Culvert on N Main Avenue

The rebuilding of North Main Avenue brought many improvements to the city’s northern arterial street.  Adding two new culverts and raising the street to over 10 feet higher will  put the road and  at least one driveway  above the floods for both Gee Creek and the Columbia River.  There is a wide sidewalk that will get pedestrians and joggers out of the street.  New guard rails on both sides  should prevent vehicles from going off the road.  Of all the events, putting the arched culvert together was the most interesting

The arched culvert pieces were assembled on August 22nd of last year.  There were 24 pieces that made for 12 arches.  Since the arches had to support each other, the two halves had to be placed in the footings simultaneously.  To do that, two giant mobile  cranes were used.  Each half culvert section weighed 77 tons.  The work had to be carefully coordinated to protect the machinery, the concrete arches, and the workers.  It was fun to watch.  It was Legos, Tinker Toys, and Tonka Toys for big boys and girls.  Below are some of the photos I took on that day.

The heavy pieces of culvert had to be picked off the truck bed, attached to cable rigging, and swung into place. There was a queue of trucks entering and leaving from opposite sides all day long.  It meant 24 trucks each carrying one half section of culvert.

To move the sections into position, each piece had  several points of connection using cables, chains, and pulleys.  At the top of each section, facing the camera, are holes into which rebar will be placed.

Even though the pieces were quite large, they needed to be placed in exactly the right place in the footings.  It meant careful coordination with the two crane operators with the men in the lift helping to guide the process.  Since the two pieces would come to rest on each other, they had to be placed at the same time.

As the day progressed, the final pieces of the culvert were placed.  Note the array of chains, pulleys, and cables.   Looking at the back of the crane, there can be seen a stack of very heavy weights which counterbalanced the cranes.  It was easy  to see how skillfully the assembly was done.

The sections of the culvert were all put in place on August 22, but there still  was much work to be done.

Paul Snoey

Paving on N Main Avenue


Paving was done on N Main Avenue today and appears to be almost complete. On the west side, forms have been placed for the sidewalk, which has yet to be poured.  There still remains guard rails to be placed on both sides.  There has been an 8″ water main installed in the street ending with a hydrant at the entrance to the refuge.  Under the future sidewalk, there is a two inch sewer force-main that will carry sewage from the refuge into town.  The completion date is still scheduled for December 31st.

Looking to the north behind the two workers, the end of a new 10′ culvert can be seen.  This culvert carries a tributary of Gee Creek that used to drain into Gee Creek on the east side.  The improvement created an opportunity for a salmon incubator and I asked the state to consider it.  Yesterday, the state granted permission for a remote site incubator to be installed on property owned by Raul and Claudia Moreno.  The Lewis River Hatchery has committed 5,000 Coho eggs for early January.  This incubator will be part of an educational program with the State Department of Fish and Wildlife and likely students from Union Ridge will be visiting.

Wednesday afternoon update:  Crews were installing a guard rail on the east side today and finishing paving on the North end.  There was a lot of crew members on site today working in several different places along the project.  Heavy rain is predicted beginning tomorrow and the National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for Thursday evening through Sunday morning.  The original culvert under N Main was only 10 feet in diameter and tended to back up during a heavy rain event.  If we do have heavy rain, it will be interesting to see the difference the new culvert makes.

Contributed by Paul Snoey


I have a DR Field and Brush Mower that I use to cut brush along the creek to make room to plant trees.  Planting trees requires moving tools,  sand and dirt, and the trees themselves.  Trees in pots can be heavy as are all the tools for planting them.  Wheelbarrows are hard work, especially carrying a load up and down a steep hill or over rough terrain.  My machine can take several attachments such as a snow blower or a wood chipper.  They don’t make a wagon attachment but will sell you one with the power unit built in for as much as $2500 or more.

So, I asked Tevis Laspa for help in making a wagon that could be attached to the power unit, and he responded that it sounded like a fun project.  I found a pair of wheels on casters and that a 1.25″ steel pipe would connect the wagon to the power unit.  After making a prototype out of a piece of siding, Tevis and I discussed how to make the unit.  It was made of welded rectangular steel tube stock with the casters and pipe welded to the frame.  When I came home this morning I saw Tevis had delivered it.  I took it for a test drive down the trail at Union Ridge and back home via N 5th Ave.     Tevis showed ingenuity in  putting the connecting pipe though the steel stock.  It makes for a very sturdy connection.

Thank you so much Tevis.  It’s just in time as trees can be planted soon.

Contributed by Paul Snoey

Old Town Storm Water to Get Treatment Facility

Most of the blocks from Pioneer Street to Division Street and from North 5th Avenue to North Main Avenue discharge directly into Gee Creek by the Heron Ridge Street Bridge. It is the largest source of storm water pollution in old town Ridgefield.. The City of Ridgefield applied for a Clark County Clean Water Fund Grant administered by the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board. It was ranked number one for funding. The engineering was completed earlier this year, went out to bid, and the City Council awarded the contract to Odyssey Construction.

The project is between Maple Street and Heron Ridge Drive just east of North 3rd Avenue. The project is well into construction with a construction completion date at the end of October. It will provide treatment for low storm water flows with an overflow provision for high level flows.  This project will improve water quality of storm water into Gee Creek, especially during times of low summer flows.

The city of Ridgefield is to be commended for this improvement.  It will make a difference.

Contributed by Paul Snoey

North Main Avenue Project

This afternoon I went to the site to see the progress of the culvert  project. The sections of the wing-wall are sitting on the road on the south side. The wing-wall on the Northeast corner of the culvert has been partially done but nothing on the other corners. There is a tributary that came into the creek on the east side and the project will switch it to the west side. To do that, another culvert needs to be installed. It will be a ten foot  wide corrugated metal culvert and there are six twenty-foot sections by the staging area. The new road and pedestrian trail must be built and paved. No doubt this project will not be built by BirdFest on October 5th. It may be several weeks before this project is complete. The project website has no information about a change in scheduling and has not been updated since September 13th.

(Monday morning update:  The completion date is now Friday, November 29th.)

contributed by Paul Snoey

Allen Canyon Creek Flow Restored

A couple of weeks ago I showed a photo of this area  on Allen Canyon Creek.  The creek had stopped flowing and there was just a small pool with some Coho fry that were trapped.  We’ve had about 4 inches of rain since  September 8th.  I’ve never seen this high a flow so early in the year.  We have not had enough rain to saturate the ground enough to create runoff so the creek will drop pretty fast but probably will have some flow through the end of the year.  It’s interesting that the Coho fry stay in the pool just below the fern on the right bank.   They are free to go anywhere but seem to like their home pool.  This morning I dropped some gold fish food and let it float downstream.  With in  a few seconds the fry eagerly ate it. It is a good way to know if they are still there.  Notice how clear the flow is after such a heavy rain.  Water quality is excellent on Allen Canyon Creek.  However, for much of the summer, there is no flow.  The water is there but trapped behind dams to hold water for stock ponds and in storm water detention ponds.

The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership is accepting grant applications  for stream rehabilitation projects that facilitate fish recovery.  Private individuals  can’t apply but the City of Ridgefield can. If there was a study that looked at those places on Allen Canyon Creek where water is held it may be possible to modify them to release water in times of need.   Allen Canyon Creek could become a stream that could carry a much better population of Coho Salmon and possibly cutthroat trout as well.  How about it City?  Could you consider applying for a grant to improve stream flow on Allen Canyon Creek?

Contributed by Paul Snoey