PGE And Pacific Power Threatened Power Outages In Multiple Oregon Counties

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland General Electric and Pacific Power, two utility companies, said on Thursday that they could shut off power for public safety in parts of several counties over the next few days because of the risk of high winds and extreme wildfire conditions.

Pacific Power said that about 12,000 customers in Linn, Douglas, Lincoln, Tillamook, Marion, and Polk counties received a notice. The warning is in effect from Friday morning until Saturday night.

“Our advanced weather modeling shows that there could be dangerous fire weather,” said Steve Vanderburg, who is in charge of meteorology at Pacific Power. “We’re trying to figure out how this weather event could affect our system, and we’ve sent notices to several Pacific Power communities to shut off their power for public safety.”

In particular, the shutoff could affect Stayton, east of the Santiam Canyon, Lebanon, Sweet Home, Lincoln City, and Glide, all of which are east of Umpqua Highway.

Pacific Power pointed to a forecast that says there will be very little humidity, dry plants, high levels on key weather indexes, and steady winds. This could have happened as early as midnight on Friday.

Even more, people could be affected by PGE’s power cuts. About 30,000 customers in 10 areas could lose power. Before turning off the power, the company said it would give up to four hours’ notice.

“Based on what PGE knows now, a PSPS could be called on Friday morning, and power could be out until Saturday night,” the company said in a statement. “If this event lasts as long as we think it will and there is no damage to our system, power would start coming back on Sunday morning, and customers’ power could be back on by Monday night.”

On the PGE website, there is an interactive map that shows exactly where these areas are. They are in the rural areas outside of Sandy, Estacada, Molalla, Silverton, McMinnville, and Forest Grove, on the edges of the Portland metro area.

Matt Zaffino, the chief meteorologist at KGW, said, “Strong east winds will develop in western Oregon on Friday and last through Saturday.” “Even though these will be the strongest east winds since February, they won’t be as strong as the east winds in September 2020. They will also not last as long. Saturday night, the winds will calm down.”

Zaffino said that these east winds won’t just be in the Gorge, but will cross the Cascades and go through Oregon’s western valleys all the way to the coast.

Zaffino said that any fires that are already going or that start during the wind event could spread quickly and in strange ways. On Friday and Saturday, smoke from wildfires in Washington and British Columbia is also likely to make the sky look hazy.

People have said that Pacific Power started or helped start the devastating wildfires in Oregon in September 2020 when their equipment broke down during a very strong wind event.

As a way to avoid these risks, more and more places where wildfires are likely to get really bad are turning off the power for public safety. Both PGE and Pacific Power have used them in the past, but not enough of them were used during the 2020 event to help all of the areas that were affected by the extreme wildfire conditions.

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