Lane County declares emergency in wake of ice storm

Roads impacted by December 2016 ice storm. (Photo courtesy Lane County)

EUGENE, Ore. - Just in case you had any doubts just how serious this ice episode has been, Lane County's emergency manager put it this way:

"The count is at least 32,000 people have been without power at some point," Linda Cook told the Board of Commissioners Friday.

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As public works and utility line crews continue the battle outside, Lane County commissioners took action indoors Friday to declare an official state of emergency.

"The county's administrator is authorized to spend $500,000 in responding to the effects of the severe ice storm and the declaration of local emergency shall remain in effect for 14 days," Commissioner Jay Bozievich said.

Emergency service managers say this is the first local declaration of this type in more than a decade.

One purpose of the order is a call to action for all county residents.

"Although you may be fine, there are a lot of people in our community that are not," Cook said. "That's our calling to the public to reach out, volunteer where you can, check on your neighbors."

The other issue for the order is that it lays the basis for a future request for federal aid from FEMA.

"It may rise to the level of requesting the state to make a federal disaster declaration," Cook said.

Meanwhile, public works managers say most major county routes are open, but the work's not done.

"We've got side roads that we still need to open up," said Tim Elsea, Lane County's public works director. "We'll go back once the power company has let us know that they've cleared the power lines in many locations."

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