The lights came back on for most in the tiny neighboring community of Aurora late Thursday night, marking the beginning of the end for one of the more challenging chapters in the town’s storied history.
When it finally happened, Aurora City Councilor Tara Weidman took to the streets, dancing.
“My husband and I put on jackets and danced all over town, howling and knocking on our neighbors’ doors and dancing with them!” she said with a laugh. “I’ve never been happier.”
While power in most homes and businesses in Canby began returning Sunday night, Aurora remained dark, with city utilities like water and sewer facing the frightening but very real possibilities of a catastrophic failure.
Aurora officials had warned residents over the weekend that the city was nearly out of water, with the city’s electric water pumps knocked by the storm.
But the cities of Happy Valley and Sherwood delivered enormous, portable generators Monday evening to power the pumping of well water to the city’s storage tank.
City officials had worried their limited reserve of water would run out by Tuesday. Instead, when Mark Gunter, public works superintendent, got to work Tuesday morning, the city’s 300,000-gallon water storage reservoir was nearly full.
When Aurora’s sewer generator went down Thursday morning, another councilor, Mercedes Rhoden-Feely, who is originally from the Prineville area, reached out to her friend, Crook County Judge Seth Crawford, to see if there was a generator that they could use.
Prineville Public Works Department not only agreed to loan a generator that could do the job but also drove it all the way out to Government Camp, where Mayor Brian Asher picked it up.
“So, so, so beyond humbled by the generosity of so many communities far and wide,” Weidman said.
That is been how Aurora weathered this historic storm: Together.
“Much of our initial efforts were door-to-door as most of us had no phone service,” Weidman said. “We knocked on doors to check on neighbors and also inform them what was going on with our generator situation. We moved people from homes without wood stoves to homes with, who could safely house them.”
Aurorans with gas stoves made big casseroles and pots of soup, which were delivered to people who had no power. The fire department and city hall offered charging stations and wifi. The White Rabbit Bakery donated cupcakes.
On Thursday night, just before the lights came back on, Weidman and other volunteers brought camping stoves to the Legion Hall and made spaghetti for about 40 people.
“People were so generous,” Weidman said. “It was really incredible to witness. It was hard the first two nights when it was so cold. But that moment when the lights came on was miraculous. What a rush.”