PORTLAND, Ore. — While more than 100,000 customers remain without power days after a snow and ice storm swept through the region, Portland General Electric (PGE) said it expects 90% of people who don’t have power as of Thursday morning will have power by Friday night. For the other 10% of customers, PGE said it will still take several more days due to significant damage and access challenges.
During a briefing Thursday morning, PGE President and CEO Maria Pope didn't give a time estimate for when power will be restored to the remaining 10% of customers who aren't expected to have it restored by Friday. She said crews will continue to work 24-7 through the weekend and early next week to get the power restored "as quickly as possible" to all customers.
Pope said the customers in the final stretch of restoration are in the hardest-hit areas, including Silverton, Canby, Woodburn, Sublimity and Stayton.
PGE has restored power for nearly 567,000 customers since the start of the storm. Despite those efforts 103,000 customers were still without power as of 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Pacific Power also reported 3,350 customers without power.
Dale Goodman, the director of utility operations for PGE, said they've received reports of people touching downed wires.
"That is very dangerous. Do not do that," Goodman said. "We understand folks are frustrated, they want their power back or they want these lines out of their way. But do not touch these wires."
Goodman and Pope both asked people to not approach crews while they're working for the safety of the line workers.
"That's very distracting," Goodman said. "They're working around live power, in very dangerous situations."
More than 3,000 people are working to restore power for PGE customers after the storm caused what PGE described as “catastrophic destruction” to its system. The issue, according to a spokesman from PGE, was that trees in several locations crashed onto PGE equipment, damaging power lines, transmission lines and even substations.
Both utility companies said crews were working around the clock, with backup called in from as far away as Nevada and Montana.
PGE on Wednesday afternoon launched a storm info page that shows how many crews are working in each region of Oregon and what they're priorities are.
Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) urged people to only call 911 when downed power lines are arcing, sparking or have caused immediate danger to people or pets. Otherwise, they advise people to report downed power lines to PGE at 503-464-7777 or 800-544-1795. People should also stay far away from downed power lines, especially in wet conditions.
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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Saturday declared a state of emergency due to the severe weather and power outages.
"The state of emergency I declared on Saturday will ensure that all necessary state resources are available on the ground to help Oregonians impacted by this winter storm," Brown said.
Four people in Clackamas County have died from carbon monoxide poisoning during the winter storm. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said in addition to the deaths, first responders have reported several other close calls. Deputies reported six adults in Gladstone got carbon monoxide poisoning after using a generator in an enclosed area.
The sheriff’s office said it’s important people don’t use generators inside their homes because of the carbon monoxide danger. Deputies also said people shouldn't use alternative heating sources, including barbecues, camp stoves or cooktops inside their homes.