▶️ Thousands in Oregon have power shut off due to extreme fire danger


Oregon utilities began shutting down power to thousands of customers on Friday as dry easterly winds swept into the region, raising the risk of wildfire. But those shutoffs aren’t expected for people in Central Oregon despite the proximity of the Cedar Creek Fire.

Forecasters and state officials are warning of extreme fire danger across western Oregon and Washington beginning Friday and urged residents to charge cellphones and have evacuation plans ready.

Strong winds that hit over Labor Day weekend in 2020 fueled Oregon wildfires that burned more than 1 million acres, destroyed 4,000 homes and killed at least 11 people.

More than 40,000 customers will likely lose power in planned shutoffs this weekend as winds of up to 60 mph hit some areas.

“For Pacific Power, today marks the first day that we have activated a public safety power shutoff in Oregon,” said Pacific Power spokesman Drew Hanson.

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Public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) are underway across several counties in Oregon amid extreme fire danger and the imposing Cedar Creek Fire.

Power providers authorize PSPS when severe weather events could lead to power lines contributing to the ignition of a wildfire. Severe winds, for instance, could blow a tree branch into a power line, causing sparks to fall on the dry vegetation below.

These PSPS are largely happening in Western Oregon. Why not Central Oregon? Central Electric Cooperative Director of Public Relations Brent ten Pas says weather patterns here do not meet the criteria to authorize one, for now.

“As far as winds and that criteria, we would be looking at sustained straight lined winds of over 40 miles an hour, and wind gusts over 60 miles an hour,” ten Pas said.

The shutoffs are mostly affecting counties ranging from the Portland area and down the Willamette Valley. Turning the power back on depends on how the weather runs its course.

“What we have to wait for before we can say when the power will be turned back on is we got to let the weather do what it’s going to do,” Hanson said. “At this point, it’s too early on to give any best estimates.”

Pacific Power says by the peak of these winds, a potential of nearly 13,000 customers could be affected.

Central Electric Cooperative says that it could take anywhere from hours to sometimes days to turn the power back on because of the need for crews to inspect every inch of the line.

Cedar Creek Fire managers say Lane Electric Cooperative will shut off power to nearly all customers in the city centers of Oakridge, Lowell and Veneta from 5:00 p.m. Friday through Sunday night. Of those three, Oakridge is the only one directly affected by the Cedar Creek Fire.

Pacific Power said Friday it is monitoring and watching the weather activity in determining shutoffs for customers in Douglas, Linn, Marion, Lincoln, Tillamook and Polk counties.

“As the weather system progresses throughout the day, the company is still anticipating Public Safety Power Shutoffs for specific communities and will provide advance notification to affected customers when possible before turning off power,” Pacific Power said.

Temporary Community Resource Centers are available and will remain open Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m. (unless service is restored earlier) at the following locations. 

  • Douglas County – Glide High School – 18990 N. Umpqua Highway, Glide, OR 97443
  • Marion County – Bethel Baptist Church – 645 Cleveland Street, Aumsville, OR 97325
  • Linn County – Sankey Park – 877 14th Ave, Sweet Home, OR 97386

For all non-emergency questions about the Public Safety Power Shutoff, customers and the public should call Pacific Power at 1-888-221-7070. For a map of affected areas and outage preparation information, please visit www.pacificpower.net/psps

Power shut-offs due to extreme fire weather, common in California, are new to the Pacific Northwest.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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