Freezing rain knocks down trees, power lines across Lane County

COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. -- Freezing rain knocked down tree limbs and power lines across western Oregon overnight Friday, leaving thousands of electric customers without power.

Officials expect more outages through the evening hours Saturday as trees and power lines continue to fall. The National Weather Service is forecasting overnight ice accumulation up to three-quarters of an inch, which will cause more outages. | Tips to stay warm through an outage

Officials want to remind drivers and pedestrians avoid any downed lines, and immediately call their local power provider.

Crews have come from Medford, Roseburg, Coos Bay, Klamath Falls and Portland to lend a hand to workers who have spent over 24 hours on the streets.

A crew working to repair a line along Highway 58 told our news crew that freezing rain tends to make their jobs extremely difficult. The rain and ice weighs down tree branches already heavy with snow, causing them to snap and fall onto power lines.

Ice can increase the weight of branches by nearly 30 times its original weight and a half-inch of ice on a power line can add about 500 pounds, University of Oregon officials said.

The reports of outages around Lane County grew in the early morning hours of Saturday, officials with the Emerald People's Utility District said.

Eugene Water and Electric Board is reporting they have around 5,300 customers without power after losing major feeder lines in the Westmoreland area, Barger Drive, Prairie Road, River Road, Irving Road, east Thurston, the south Eugene hills and the Laurel Hill Valley in southeast Eugene.

Crews are working to repair the major feeder lines first, and will then begin work on smaller distribution lines at the neighborhood level, EWEB spokesman Joe Harwood said.

Saturday's ice storm knocked out power to around 2,000 Springfield residents, officials with theSpringfield Utility Board said at around noon Saturday. The outages are primarily in east Springfield and the downtown area. They aren't sure when the power will be restored.

Lane Electric said they're bringing in extra crews to help handle outages for around 5,700 people in their service area.

Pacific Power crews are working to restore electrical service to customers in the mid-Willamette Valley. All together, more 120 crew members are now at work to help the over 7,000 customers are without power.

Emerald PUD said that by Saturday afternoon there were over 9,000 homes without power in their district. Officials said they are still unsure of when they will restore power, including to the nearly 2,000 people without electricity in Cottage Grove.

EPUD crews worked through the night to try to restore power to residents in Cottage Grove, Dexter-Lowell area, Fall Creek, Lorane, Lost Creek, Marcola, Pleasant Hill and other rural communities in Lane County.

As is the case with each local utility service, repair crews are working around the clock to handle the increase in downed electric and communication lines.

Utility crews ask that customers please stay back from their trucks to allow them to work as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible.

A power surge in South Eugene sent out news station onto our auxiliary generator. Our technicians are currently working to fix our outgoing signal.

From Pacific Power:

Here are a few tips and safety precautions for those who lost power during the ice storm:

  • Stay away from all downed power lines and utility lines. Even if the lines are not sparking, they could be energized and extremely dangerous.

  • Call and report the outage to Pacific Power at 1-877-508-5088.

  • Candles should never be left unattended or used for extended periods. Use a flashlight or other battery-powered lighting source.

  • Use a fireplace or wood stove to keep warm. Pay careful attention to fire hazards.

  • Never use kerosene or propane heaters inside without proper ventilation. They create dangerous fumes. Also, don't use charcoal in your house or garage.

  • Never use a barbecue grill indoors. Cook over sterno cans.

  • Don't drive over downed power lines.

  • Turn on your porch light switch. After crews complete repairs, they patrol the area of the power failure to see if lights are on.

  • As much as possible, do not open refrigerators and freezers--they will keep food and perishables inside cold for some time if not opened.

  • Preserve body heat by wearing multiple layers of clothing. Add a hat and blanket to stay warm. Blankets and towels around windows and doors help keep the heat in.

  • Check on your neighbors, especially those who may need special assistance. Also, check with others who have electricity, to see if you can visit.

  • Protect your pipes during freezing weather by wrapping them with insulation. Also, leave faucets dripping so water won't freeze and crack the pipes.

  • Generators should be outside or in a well ventilated unoccupied space.

  • Make sure generators are properly wired for your home or business, and don't connect a generator directly to your home's main fuse box or circuit panel. This can create a dangerous back feed hazard for line crews.