Power expected to stay on in Columbia County despite fire risk
Residents in Oregon are being alerted about the potential for power shutoffs later this week as officials warn about expected critical fire danger on Friday and Saturday.
Fire danger is expected to rise on Friday, Sept. 9, starting around midday as winds from the northeast ramp up across the region. Some in Oregon and Southwest Washington will be living in areas covered by a red flag warning, while others will be under a fire weather watch.
Columbia County is under a red flag warning from 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 9, through 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10.
"In response, we will modify parts of our system in accordance with our wildfire mitigation plan. These modifications will result in longer restoration times if you lose power," said Kyle Boggs with the Columbia River People's Utility District.
If the fire risk is high, utility providers can shut off power preemptively to avoid starting or spreading fire.
"At this time, we do not plan to institute a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS); however, we will continue to monitor our system and weather conditions in our area. If conditions warrant, a PSPS may occur," Boggs said Thursday morning.
If a shutoff is later deemed necessary, Boggs said, "We will attempt to notify customers through social media and our website; however, there may be little or no notice, so please be prepared for that to occur."
Portland General Electric and Pacific Power alerted their customers to the likelihood of power shutoffs as a result of the increased fire danger.
"(Wind) has a chance to blow items into powerlines which can then create a spark," said Drew Hanson with Pacific Power. "The way the weather interacts across that terrain and how it interacts with our system is something that we're able to track and then know where the high-risk areas are."
Pacific Power says about 12,000 customers in Linn, Douglas, Lincoln, Tillamook, Marion and Polk counties will face a power outage as a result of the winds, specifically in the following areas: Stayton east through the Santiam Canyon, Lebanon, Sweet Home, Lincoln City, and Glide east along the Umpqua Highway.
Pacific Power says they will set up community resource centers in impacted communities.
Meanwhile, Portland General Electric says it is "likely" the state's largest utility company will be shutting off power in 10 high-risk areas on Friday and Saturday — affecting approximately 30,000 customers. In a Wednesday press release, the company said it will only resort to this power shutoff if absolutely necessary.
PGE said these high risk areas include: The West Hills, Tualatin Mountains, North West Hills, Central West Hills, Oregon City, Estacada, Mt. Hood Corridor/foothills, Columbia River Gorge, Scotts Mills and the Southern West Hills.
PGE noted if conditions persist, it aims to provide up to four hours of notice before shutting off power.
"If you have a medical need for electricity, make a plan now in case of power outages," Multnomah County officials tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
Residents are advised to make a plan, which includes making a list of emergency contacts, preparing an outage kit, making sure batteries are fully charged or have a generator, having a back-up for extended outages and having a transportation plan in case you need to leave home.
Items in an outage kit should include a battery-operated light, emergency medical supplies, equipment and assistive devices with your contact information, ice packs and an ice chest for medication, fresh batteries and power banks, food and water for up to 72 hours, according to Multnomah County officials, who also remind residents to not forget about their pets.
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