Gov. Kotek declares statewide emergency for ice storm

Oregon winter storm 2024
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Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek declared a statewide emergency Thursday night after requests for aid from multiple counties “as they enter the sixth day of severe impacts” from weather marked by freezing rain.

The declaration means that cities and counties can turn to the state for additional support as they exhaust resources, Kotek said in her announcement. It also opens the door to receiving assistance from the federal government.

In Central Oregon, freezing rain has been the main issue the past few days. Multiple school districts canceled school Friday. Supply chains have also taken a hit, with reports of fewer goods at some grocery stores and several gas stations running low on some grades of fuel.

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Redmond Municipal Airport shut down runways Thursday afternoon due to freezing rain. Several flights were already canceled Friday.

Thousands of residents have been without power since Saturday in parts of Oregon’s Willamette Valley after an ice storm caused extensive damage

“We lost power on Saturday, and we were told yesterday that it would be over two weeks before it’s back on,” said Jamie Kenworthy, a real estate broker in Jasper in Lane County.

“We do have a generator that we got last year, and right now it’s running an oil plug-in heater,” she said. “We also have a natural gas stove, and I’ve been running two of the burners to try to help heat up the house.”

Crews had made steady progress restoring power to tens of thousands of customers in Oregon after back-to-back storms, but by Friday morning more than 107,000 were without electricity, according to the website poweroutage.us.

Portland Public Schools canceled classes for the fourth straight day amid concerns about icy roads and water damage to buildings, and state offices in Portland were also ordered closed Friday. On the East Coast, District of Columbia Public Schools closed Friday due to weather conditions.

Here is the full announcement from Kotek:

Salem, OR — This evening, Governor Tina Kotek declared a statewide emergency due to the severe ice storm that impacted counties across the state. This declaration comes following an assessment of needs and subsequent requests from multiple counties as they enter the 6th day of severe impacts as a result of the storm. The declaration will support counties to respond and recover from damages as a result of the storm.

“Thousands of people across the state have been impacted by the storm, including power outages, lack of transportation, and an array of safety concerns that come with severe weather,” Governor Kotek said. “The state has been working with counties as they assess needs, including critical federal resources that can be unlocked by a statewide emergency. I declared a state of emergency in Lane County on Tuesday, and now we are heeding the call from additional counties to escalate.”

Emergency response starts at the local level. As resources are exhausted, cities and counties turn to the state for additional support. Not all resources, such as those the state has been providing since the start of the storm, require a state emergency declaration. The Oregon Department of Emergency Management (OEM) and the Governor’s Office have been in frequent communication with impacted counties as they continuously assess their needs, anticipate emerging issues, problem-solve, and seek to fill gaps. 

State emergency declarations are a critical tool that support counties getting access to federal resources they may be entitled to through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as other resources. Assets include, but are not limited to, federal infrastructure support for highways, telecommunications, and power system recovery, which responders can access more easily with a statewide emergency declaration.

Currently, Multnomah County, Lincoln County, Washington County, Hood River County, and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians have declared a local state of emergency and have been receiving support from the state, including from OEM, the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).  

In addition, ODHS announced this week that individuals who may have had to throw away food purchased with SNAP benefits due to a power outage or other damage from winter storms may be eligible to replace their benefits. Customers may call 800-699-9075, email oregon.benefits@odhsoha.oregon.gov or provide a written request by mail to ONE Customer Service Center, PO Box 14015, Salem, OR 97309, within 10 days of the loss to inquire.

A full list of warming shelters across the state can be found here. OHA has published resources for winter storms here, and recognizing and avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning here. Oregonians with storm damage can contact the Department of Consumer and Business Services for insurance help and advocacy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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