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Oregon National Guard deployed as power outages persist a week after winter storm

Severe damage to Portland's south and east could leave some residents in the dark for several more days.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown on Friday called on the Oregon National Guard to go door-to-door in areas hardest hit by last weekend’s ice storm as utility company crews work around the clock to restore power to thousands of residents who have been without electricity for a week.

The damage and dangerous conditions left behind by the storm — which came in three waves starting Feb. 12 — is the worst in the history of Portland General Electric, CEO Maria Pope said. Crews were not able to safely enter the worst-hit areas for 48 hours because trees laden down with hundreds of pounds of ice were falling constantly, the utility said.

Even now, progress is slow because of “widow-maker” branches and trees dangling high above downed power lines. Seventy-five timber crews are working alongside utility crews to remove the trees before work can begin on restoring the power grid.

As of 8:45 p.m. Friday, more than 53,000 Portland General Electric (PGE) customers, about half of which are in Clackamas County, remain without power a week after the storm first swept into the greater Portland area. PGE on Thursday said it anticipated power would be back for all but 15,000 of its customers by Friday night. For customers who live in hard-hit areas such as Gladstone, Milwaukie, Canby and West Linn, PGE acknowledged it will take until early next week or later for power to return.

Get the latest information from PGE

Clackamas County made the request for National Guard support Friday. Guard members will help distribute food and water from county resource centers that were set up following the storm.

“We are grateful the state has offered to help since the beginning of this historic storm,” said Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith. “We have asked for support from Guard members to provide wellness checks to allow us to reach every household. We are particularly concerned about our rural residents, making sure that those who are homebound are visited and the medically fragile and small children are taken care of.”

At least four people in Clackamas County have died from carbon monoxide poisoning after using propane heaters, grills or generators inside their homes to keep warm.

“Having even one life at risk due to the aftermath of the winter storm is untenable,” said Oregon State Representative Christine Drazan. “With the help of the National Guard, our odds of connecting with everyone who remains without power are much greater.”

On Saturday, Clackamas County Sheriff's deputies and Search and Rescue teams will go door-to-door to do preliminary checks on neighbors. They'll share what they find with Oregon National Guard members who, on Sunday, will follow up with neighbors in need. Guard members run a similar operation on Monday, in Marion County. 

"The hope is that power is on for everybody today," said Major Stephen Bomars, Director of Public Affairs for the Oregon Military Department. "But I think the due diligence is to have us go out to support the county and just check on our neighbors."

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