PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With a red flag warning in effect across Oregon Friday, mass power shutoffs are happening across the state because of high winds and extreme fire conditions.
Fire danger is expected to rise by Friday afternoon. Gusty winds are forecasted to ramp up with speeds up to 30-40 mph in Portland and the Willamette Valley. KOIN 6’s meteorologist Natasha Stenbock says high winds paired with Oregon’s dry, warm weather bolsters fire danger.
Portland General Electric and Pacific Power have announced some customers will have their power temporarily turned off starting Friday morning, ahead of the strong easterly wind event. Additional shutoffs are possible throughout the day as wind conditions pick up.
Preventative outages are a proactive measure to reduce the risk of wildfire, according to PGE.
As of 8 a.m. Friday, PGE reported more than 12,000 Oregonians are without power. Meanwhile, a little more than 60 Pacific Power customers are reportedly in the dark.
PGE estimates the shutoffs will eventually affect about 30,000 customers in 10 high-risk areas.
Those 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.
KOIN Complete Coverage: Wildfire Watch 2022
The Public Safety Power Shutoff Zone also includes downtown Portland, Southeast Portland, East Portland, Gresham, Beaverton, Newberg, and part of Hillsboro. The map below shows the entire PSPS area.
Power restoration could begin as early as Saturday night, but PGE’s Andrea Platt said weather conditions must normalize first. That means winds will need to die down, so crews can safely assess all equipment before re-energizing.
"A public safety power shutoff is something that is a last resort safety measure," said Platt. "It’s something that we take when our other efforts to mitigate the risk of wildfire don’t go far enough. Its a measure where we turn off power in anticipation that winds or other conditions could impact our lines and could create a spark."
Platt added these public safety power shutoffs are a "reflection of changing weather conditions" in Oregon. The first time PGE ever enforced these safety shutoffs was reportedly during the 2020 wildfire season in the Mount Hood Corridor.
Pacific Power estimates about 12,000 customers in Linn, Douglas, Lincoln, Tillamook, Marion, and Polk counties will be affected by power outages due to high winds, specifically in the following areas: Stayton east through the Santiam Canyon, Lebanon, Sweet Home, Lincoln City, and Glide east along the Umpqua Highway.
The companies suggested people living in the affected areas create a summer outage kit and make sure everyone in the household knows where to find it. A full breakdown of what to include in a kit and other measures to take can be found here.
In addition to the power shutoffs, both PGE and Pacific Power reported community resource centers will be set up in impacted communities.
Furthermore, several school districts announced they will not be holding class Friday as they anticipate power shutoffs. Find a list of those school districts here.
The full interview with PGE’s Andrea Platt can be viewed below.
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