Portland General Electric crews were working through the night Saturday evening to inspect lines and restore power to more than 37,000 homes in Clackamas County and surrounding areas that were preemptively shut off due to high winds and extreme fire conditions.
The worst appeared to be over Saturday night, and though the eerie yellow skies and smoky air brought back bad memories from this same time period two years ago, proactivity on the part of utilities and diligence by fire agencies and communities — and perhaps a bit of luck — seemed to be effective in heading off possible disaster.
PGE reported at just before 8 p.m. that crews were actively working in all 10 areas that had experienced public safety power shutoffs, including the Mount Hood corridor and foothills, Portland West Hills, Tualatin Mountains, Central West Hills and Southern West Hills.
“Crews are patrolling, inspecting and repairing approximately 1,800 miles of lines so that power may safely be restored,” the utility said in a news release.
Crews had begun re-energizing lines for affected customers as early as 3 p.m. Saturday, as visual inspections by PGE personnel as well as mutual aid from Avista, BC Hydro, PG&E and the Snohomish Public Utility District confirmed that repairs were not needed in some areas.
The utility said it was working with local government officials and fire agencies to establish plans and confirm the extreme weather conditions had abated in the affected service areas.
“Safety is our top concern,” PGE said. “Crews will work as soon as the weather allows and then as quickly as safely possible to restore the remaining approximately 17,000 customers affected by PGE’s proactive outages.”
Community resource centers will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day until power is fully restored to the areas. Information, bottled water, ice, access to charging for personal devices and wireless internet will be available.
The locations include Welches Elementary School, 24901 East Salmon River Road; Firwood Elementary School, 42900 SE Trubel Road in Sandy; Silverton Safeway, 301 Westfield Street; Jim’s Thriftway, 12350 NW Main Street in Banks; and Sheridan High School, 433 S Bridge Street.
For the most up-to-date information on power shutoffs, visit portlandgeneral.com/active-psps-info. Customers experiencing outages outside of the announced areas should instead go to portlandgeneral.com/outages.
Battle-tested by the disastrous wildfires of September 2020 and other crises, the rural communities of Clackamas County banded together Friday and Saturday to support displaced residents of Estacada and other areas ordered to evacuate due to the threat of active wildfires.
The Oregonian told the story of Angie Zeise, Molalla Mayor Scott Keyser and other residents who worked through the early morning hours Saturday to open the Molalla Buckeroo as a campsite and livestock and animal shelter for Estacadans displaced by the four-alarm fire that burned an estimated 25 acres at Milo McIver State Park.
“If anybody does get evacuated, we’re here for them and we can house their animals,” Keyser told the paper.
Approximately 550 homes were evacuated in Estacada, with Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office deputies going door to door in some areas to notify residents. Many in the area recalled the massive Riverside wildfire that ravaged central and eastern Clackamas County in 2020, displacing thousands in Molalla, Sandy and Estacada.
Fire officials and residents said that disaster helped better prepare fire crews and volunteers to respond to this year’s wildfires and serve those impacted by them.
“We all went through it two years ago,” Zeise told The Oregonian. “I was running the fire evacuation at Clackamas County Fairground for about 16 days.”
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