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Scientists say more big damaging winter storms are likely because of climate change.

KRISTYNA WENTZ-GRAFF/OPB - A large tree limb is tangled in a power line, lying across Southeast Ash Street near 20th Avenue., Feb. 16, 2021. The Portland metro area continues to dig out following the weekend's snow and ice storms.
By most accounts, it's been 60 years since Oregon saw a storm that damaged the power grid to the degree ice and snow battered the Portland region this past weekend.

In 1962, the famed "Columbus Day Storm" felled trees, powerlines, statues and military outposts with its typhoon-force winds. "The intense winds left over a million people in Oregon without electrical power, some of them for weeks," reads an Oregon Historical Society account of the event.

Today, the Portland region is in a similar state. More than an inch of ice accumulation over the weekend downed thousands of power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands of people from Marion County to North Portland wondering when they might have their service restored. Portland officials said they received a staggering 2,800 emergency calls Monday, Feb. 15, as residents reported severe power outages and dangerously dangling tree limbs.

The event spurred an emergency declaration from Gov. Kate Brown, along with a dire historical assessment: "Utilities in our region have never experienced such widespread outages, including during the September 2020 wildfires."

Given the magnitude of the emergency, Portland General Electric, Pacific Power and others now face a question: was this truly a 60-year storm, or can Oregon expect more frequent events like this as climate change advances? And if it's the latter, what might be done to better prepare the system?

Oregon Public Broadcasting is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their full story can be found here.


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