'This ice storm is probably one of the worst, most destructive storms we've seen'

"We're essentially re-building parts of our electric system from the ground up right now. I know it's frustrating for our customers, but we're doing it as fast as we can - and we're doing it safely," Joe Harwood with EWEB said (EWEB photo)

EUGENE, Ore. - Chopping wood has become a daily routine for Sheldon High School freshman Ethan Flow.

"We're going to put it in the fireplace and burn it," he said, "so we stay warm, of course."

Ethan and his family lost power in the ice storm Wednesday.

It remained out Monday.

"We've been sleeping out here because it's close to the fireplace," he said in his family's living room. "It keeps us the warmest and our propane heater is right over there that keeps us also warm. And this is the dogs, this is Wee Wee and Jordan. She wraps up in the blankets, and we all try to keep warm with our blankets. I sleep with a down comforter.

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Flow said half his block is without power.

The other half is lending a helping hand - and more: extension cords bring power from homes with electricity to homes still in the dark.

The ice storm December 14 did widespread damage to the electrical system in Eugene.

Utility crews have been working around the clock to restore power to homes like Flow's.

"When the outages started Wednesday afternoon, most of the crews worked 38 to 40 hour shifts without a break," said Joe Harwood with the Eugene Water & Electric Board. "We finally had to send most of them home just for 8 hours just to get some sleep because when you're working with high voltage lines, you don't want to be tired and fatigued."

Harwood said the areas still without power are the ones that have the most trees.

RELATED | EWEB: Thousands of customers remain without power as of Monday afternoon

“What you’re seeing is a lot in South Eugene, Southeast Eugene, Southwest Eugene, River Road. We still have some over in the Bethel area that we’re working on. Some in the Harlow-Coburg Road, Wilakenzie area," he said. "We're essentially re-building parts of our electric system from the ground up right now. I know it's frustrating for our customers, but we're doing it as fast as we can - and we're doing it safely."

EWEB is working methodically to restore power, Harwood said.

“The way we go about restoring outages, we start with transmission lines that are 115 kilovolt lines. Make sure those are going, then we get our major feeder lines up, and we will go to the distribution lines that serve whole neighborhoods, we’ll get those up," he said. "And then we’ll start going to the tap lines that serve like six houses on one block. Unfortunately the folks that have a downed power line in their backyard, and they may be the only one on their block who is out of power, we probably won’t start getting to those folks until late Tuesday or possibly even Wednesday.”

The magnitude of the damage is without comparison in recent memory, Harwood said.

“I would say that this ice storm is probably one of the worst, most destructive storms we’ve seen in 40 or 50 years," Harwood said. "I’ve talked to some of the line crews that have been here for 30 or 32 years and they don’t ever remember anything this bad.”

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