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'Most destructive freezing rain event in 40 years' slows PGE power restorations

PGE said crews are facing multiple challenges during restorations, but they've restored power to approximately 655,000 customers since the start of the storm.

PORTLAND, Ore. — More than 33,000 people were still without power in the Willamette Valley as of 8:30 p.m. Saturday, more than a week after a winter storm hit the area, according to Portland General Electric. 

PGE said crews have faced multiple obstacles while working to restore power in areas throughout the Portland metro area and beyond. The majority of customers being impacted are in Clackamas and Marion counties. 

Some of the challenges faced by crews include extensive damage to equipment and hazardous conditions from downed trees or power lines.

An outage map shows which areas are being affected.

Larry Bekkedahl, vice president of Grid Architecture Integration and System Operations, said, “We know how frustrating this is, as we’ve discovered even more challenges to getting our repair and restoration work done along the way. Our 350 crews and the staff who support them will not stop working night and day until we have the power back on for every single customer.” 

The snow, ice and wind resulted in catastrophic damage to PGE's systems, Bekkedahl said. This storm even brought some of the most destructive freezing rain in over 40 years, coating wires with an inch or more of ice, adding 1,000 lbs. of added weight to wires and power poles. 

PGE said in a statement, crews were unable to access the hardest hit areas and neighborhoods for 48 hours because of fallings trees and branches on roadways.

For those in need of emergency shelter or have other needs related to cold weather, PGE encourages them to call 211 or visit 211info.org/em-shelters. This information line provides access to different kinds of help and coordinates with area shelters and warming centers.

The impact of the ice storm on the PGE system:

  • To date, one-quarter of our customers impacted by this outage have had multiple outages, meaning, as PGE restored and moved on, it had to go back and repeat the repair work.
  • As PGE neared completion of transmission lines to the areas reaching from Colton to North Marion to Salem to Oregon City, additional falling trees and limbs into those lines meant that the restoration efforts took a significant step backward – delaying restoration to 25 of the associated substations.
  • Significant access issues due to downed trees along the roadways.

Quick statistics on work to be done as of Feb. 20:

  • Customers without power: More than 33,000 
  • Transmission lines out: 4
  • Feeders out: 2

Quick statistics on work completed:

  • Customers restored: PGE has restored power to more than 660,500 customers since the start of the storm.
  • Transmission lines repaired: 37
  • Substations repaired: 20
  • Feeders repaired: 241
  • New wire/cable issued: Approximately 70 miles
  • Transmission line miles restored: Approximately 340 miles
  • Transformers issued: 478
  • Poles issued: 428
  • Crossarms issued: 1,402

PGE serves approximately 900,000 customers with a service area population of 2 million Oregonians in 51 cities. 

Check for more updates on PGE's Twitter feed