PORTLAND, Ore. — Editor's note: This story is no longer being updated. Click here for the latest on power outages in the Portland metro area and Willamette Valley.
The thaw began Monday, but the havoc wreaked by this weekend's winter storm will linger for some time. Hundreds of thousands of Oregonians are without power, heat, internet and other services, and Steve Corson, a spokesperson for Portland General Electric (PGE), said for many customers it could be that way for days.
"Our friends, our family are experiencing these outages as well. We know exactly what you're going through," Corson said, speaking generally to customers affected by the outages. "We know the frustration, and we're working as fast and as hard as we can to get that power restored."
PGE said crews have restored power to about 150,000 customers. Pacific Power said it has restored service to 18,000 customers. As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, Portland General Electric (PGE) reported more than 209,000 customers without power, and Pacific Power reported more than 20,000 customers without power.
Both utility companies said crews were working around the clock, with backup called in from as far away as Nevada and Montana. PGE said about 2,500 people are working to restore power for its customers. The issue, Corson explained, was that trees in several locations had come crashing onto PGE equipment, damaging power lines, transmission lines and even substations.
“We're not offering estimated repair times for individual outages because there's just too much,” he said. “The magnitude of the damage is so tremendous.”
The issue of trees near lines is a concern with all kinds of weather: winter storms, wildfires and heavy winds alone. Per industry standards mandated by the state, utility companies trim branches back from power lines year-round, zeroing in on each tree, every two to three years. The process, Corson said, is called “vegetation management." That said, PGE monitors an estimated 2 million trees along 12,000 miles of power lines.
More than 4,900 PGE power lines have been brought down by ice and tree limbs. Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) said crews were sent to 366 calls from Sunday through Monday involving downed power lines. The bureau said it usually receives less than three calls related to down power lines in 24-hour period. 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 a wet conditions.
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.
For those without power, PGE offers the following tips:
- Use caution with alternative light and heating sources to avoid unintentional fire from candles, harmful fumes from kerosene heaters used indoors without proper ventilation or deadly carbon monoxide from use of charcoal briquettes indoors.
- Lock in home heat by tacking blankets over windows and doorways to keep the cold out and putting rolled towels at the bottom of doors to keep drafts out.
- Save body heat by wearing loose layers of clothing to trap body heat; wearing a hat, even when sleeping; moving periodically to generate body heat and using blankets and a hot water bottle if feasible.
- If you can safely do so, consider staying with a friend or family member who has power.
- If you’re concerned for yourself, a family member or a neighbor, consider finding another location with power.
- If you need emergency shelter or have other needs related to cold weather, please call 911. For customers whose power is out, please contact PGE if you haven’t already.
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KGW's Maggie Vespa contributed to this report.