More Lights Come on in Surrounding Areas — but Thousands Still Without

More lights came on in rural neighborhoods surrounding Canby Saturday, as hundreds of line workers continued their efforts to repair the damage of the worst winter storm to hit the region in a half-century. Still, more than 30,000 Portland General Electric customers remained without power as of Saturday evening — including 16,000 in Clackamas County.

Those numbers were an improvement from the approximately 52,000 PGE had reported early that morning. But it meant the utility had missed — by a substantial margin — on its oft-stated goal this week to restore power to all but 15,000 customers by midnight Friday.

The company cited “ongoing restoration challenges” — particularly the unwelcome findings that, as workers arrived in new areas for the first time, the damage was more extensive than expected.

“We know how frustrating this is, as we’ve discovered even more challenges to getting our repair and restoration work done along the way,” said Larry Bekkedahl, vice president of grid architecture integration and system operations. “Our 350 crews and the staff who support them will not stop working night and day until we have the power back on for every single customer.”

The series of historic and devastating storms that pummeled the Portland metro area over Presidents’ Day weekend brought three waves of snow, ice and wind and resulted in the most catastrophic damage to PGE’s system that the company has seen in 50 years.

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The first wave included high winds that weakened trees and other vegetation. The second and third waves brought the most destructive freezing rain event the state has experienced in decades, coating wires with an inch or more of ice that added 1,000 pounds of extra weight to each span of wire, pole to pole.

Further, PGE was unable to safely send crews to the hardest-hit areas for the first 48 hours due to extremely dangerous conditions as a result of falling trees and limbs.

The multiple-wave event also meant that line crews had to do some of the same work twice — restore an area one day, only to have more trees fall that night and knock the grid out again. At least a quarter of the customers affected by this storm have experienced these kinds of repeat outages.

This also happened to transmission lines — which carry power from plants to the substations — in areas reaching from Colton to North Marion and Salem to Oregon City, PGE said, delaying restoration to 25 substations.

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