PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — More than 100,000 customers remained without power Thursday in Oregon, a week after a massive snow and ice storm swept into the Pacific Northwest and brought the “most dangerous conditions” seen by utility workers.
Maria Pope, the CEO of Portland General Electric, said during a news conference Thursday that she expects power to be restored to more than 90% of the remaining customers who are still in the dark by the end of Friday.
“Customers in this final stretch are those at the epicenter of the storm — people who have been hardest hit,” Pope said. “Crews working there are doing damage assessment work as well as restoration work. This is happening so we can get clarity on the issues we are facing as well as restore power as quickly as possible.”
While Portland General Electric officials are hopeful that all but about 15,000 customers will have power Friday, they also reiterated that there is still a lot of work to do.
“Since Feb. 11 we have had all hands on deck,” said Quintin Gaddis, the senior manager of substation and meter operations for Portland General Electric. “Right now we have all work crews focused on hard hit areas – the southern and eastern regions.”
Many of the places without power are in more remote areas or have extensive damage, Pope said.
In Clackamas County, where more than 46,000 customers had no electricity Thursday morning, utility workers had found 60 downed poles Wednesday. Currently there are 300 crews working in the area.
As for when the remaining customers in the dark will receive power again, Pope said that the timeline is still being determined, but updated information can be found on Portland General Electric’s website.
“We will continue working 24/7 all through the weekend and into next week to ensure that those costumers get their power on as quickly as possible,” Pope said.
The damage wrought by the storm to the power system was the worst in 40 years. At the peak of the storm, more than 350,000 customers were without power and 5,000 power lines and three substations were down.
The storm came in three staggered waves starting Friday night, and customers were losing power faster than crews could restore it through the weekend. More than 7,000 crew members from as far away as Montana and Nevada were helping restore a power grid that could be down for at least several more days.
Many school districts in the hardest-hit areas canceled classes. Some districts, including Salem-Keizer Public Schools — the state’s second-largest school district — remained closed Thursday.
Multiple vaccination locations were forced to close Friday and Saturday because of snowy and icy weather, with about 10,000 appointments having to be rescheduled. In addition, COVID-19 shipments to the state have been delayed due to weather.
At least four people have died of carbon monoxide poisoning, as they attempted to stay warm without their electricity.
On Wednesday Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency and issued a warning to hotels that authorities would investigate any reports of price gouging as residents sought out warm places to stay.
“Significant progress was made last night to restore power to Oregonians, but there are still thousands waiting,” Brown tweeted Wednesday. “Hang tight, I know this is really hard — crews are working 24/7 until everyone’s lights and heat are back on.”
Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.