Oregon’s largest utilities are considering shutting down power to at least 42,000 households due to extreme wildfire danger on Friday and Saturday.
The power shutdowns appear most likely east of Interstate 5 outside of Salem, Albany and Eugene, along with the foothills and mountains outside Portland.
Forecasters are becoming increasingly concerned about a strong east wind event similar to the conditions leading to the 2020 Labor Day fires blowup.
Pacific Power said its planning to shut down power to 12,000 homes in parts of Marion, Polk, Linn, Douglas, Lincoln and Tillamook counties, impacting communities including Stayton through the Santiam Canyon, Lebanon, Sweet Home, Lincoln City and Glide along the Umpqua Highway.
Portland General Electric, Oregon’s largest utility, said it was “increasingly likely to call a public safety power shutoff” in 10 designated areas, which includes about 30,000 homes, mainly southeast and west of the Portland Metro Area.
Consumers Power Inc. said it was considering shutoffs in Sweet Home, Stayton, Scio, Lyons, Elkhorn, Detroit, Idanha and Marion Forks.
“(We’re asking) all members to prepare now for the potential of an unplanned outage,” Linn County said in a statement. “Should an outage occur, it could take power companies between 12 hours and 48 hours (or longer) to restore power to all customers.”
Pacific Power plans
Pacific Power said it was planning to implement the power shutoff beginning at about 12 a.m. Friday and that it could last through Saturday evening.
While wind speeds aren’t expected to be as powerful as in 2020, the company said “our advanced weather modeling is indicating a potential for dangerous fire weather conditions,” said Steve Vanderburg, meteorology manager for Pacific Power.
In September 2020, Pacific Power was blamed for many of the Labor Day wildfires that ignited in the windstorm after power lines were knocked down. However, the investigation into the causes of those fires remains ongoing, state and federal agencies said.
“Customers have been notified of the potential power shutoff through phone calls, email and text messages,” the company said in a news release. “Customers will continue to receive updates through ongoing communications.”
A map of potentially affected areas is available at pacificpower.net/psps.
For all non-emergency questions about the power shutoff, customers and the public can call Pacific Power at 1-888-221-7070. Visit pacificpower.net/wildfiresafety for additional information on the shutoff, outage preparedness and wildfire safety.
Portland General Electric
Portland General Electric said late Wednesday night that those in 10 power shutoff areas — areas of higher wildfire danger — appear increasingly likely to have their power cut. That would include about 30,000 customer meters.
They said to look at a map to confirm whether customers were in those areas. The maps can be found here: https://bit.ly/3Qqb86o.
“PGE is actively monitoring conditions and will make the decision based on factors including wind speed, temperature, humidity and the dryness of trees and brush, field observations and information from local fire departments and agencies,” the utility said in a news release. “PGE will continue to monitor conditions for the next 24-48 hours and will provide an update. If conditions persist, PGE aims to provide up to four hours of notice before turning off power.”
PGE did shut down power during the 2020 Labor Day Fire windstorm.
If PGE shuts down power, it said that centers would likely be opened to provide information, water, ice, Wi-Fi and access to charging for personal electronics, a news release said.
Customer service is available at 503-228-6322 and service advisors can assist customers in more than 200 languages.
Consumers Power Inc., which has customers mainly in rural areas, said that as a last resort, it “may execute a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in parts of our service territory, including the communities of Sweet Home, Stayton, Scio, Lyons, Elkhorn, Detroit, Idanha, and Marion Forks.”
“CPI is asking members in the affected areas to prepare now for the potential of an unplanned outage,” it said.
For a real-time map of outages, the company pointed to its Outage Information page.
This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Power may be cut to 42,000 Oregon homes due to extreme wildfire danger