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Iceathon hits the area hard

Storm that began on Saturday put a severe strain on area’s infrastructure

From turning on a light to mail delivery, normal activities have been suspended after predicted blizzard-like conditions hit Oregon over the weekend.

“The ongoing challenge of ice accumulation on trees, power lines, and devices is significantly impeding our power restoration efforts,” according to a statement from the Lane Electric Cooperative. “In addition to the McKenzie and Cottage Grove areas, the Bonneville Power Administration is now grappling with trees obstructing the transmission line to our Fox Hollow substation, rendering it without power and impacting members in parts of Eugene. The ice-coated protective devices on BPA lines pose an additional hurdle, preventing them from safely restoring power to us. These devices are essential for both activating and deactivating power, particularly when detecting obstructions like trees on the lines.”

Across Eugene, the Eugene Water & Electric Board reported on Tuesday that crews have been following EWEB’s restoration protocols – called the “hierarchy of repair” – to focus first on fixing equipment that serves the greatest number of customers, then moving on to fixing equipment that serves fewer customers.

As of mid-day, about 4,900 customers remained without power, while EWEB has restored the power of thousands more since the storm began.

“Our crews appreciate the support of community members grateful for their work as they navigate slick roads and frigid conditions to get the power back on for customers,” said Tyler Nice, EWEB electric operations manager. “But we know many other customers are still out of power. We’re thankful for customers’ patience as we all band together to get through this ice storm.”

Five contract crews started working on Tuesday, bolstering EWEB’s capacity to fix outages and restore power.

Crews from Oregon Trails Electric Cooperative, Midstate Electric Cooperative, Harney Electric Cooperative, and DJ’s Electric all responded to assist Lane Electric. They’ve been contending with trees falling into roadways and onto power lines during repair work, causing further delays in restoring power.

According to EWEB, their “hierarchy of repair” comes into play when restoring power after major outages. The utility says the system aims at getting power turned on the fastest to the highest number of people by repairing downed transmission and distribution lines to restore power to the greatest number of people and then focusing on repairing lines that serve fewer customers.

Besides impacts to the power grid, the US Postal Service, area schools, bus service, and many businesses had to close. A bright spot was Everyone’s Market in Vida, which has a generator to power the store and fuel pumps/

Another round of freezing rain was forecast for Tuesday through Wednesday morning across north-west Oregon, likely adding another day or two to cabin fever.

The Oregon Dept. of Transportation was advising people who must travel Tuesday or Wednesday to carry tire chains, fuel, water, and other supplies for a longer trip than usual – as well as possible closure of roads if conditions become unsafe. ODOT crews are still working to reopen highways impacted by ice and downed trees, as well as preparing for the next round of the storm.

Although the backup on the northbound side of Interstate 5 south of Eugene has been clearing, the accumulated ice is continuing to make that 15 to 20-mile stretch very slow. Crews are again sanding that stretch of I-5 as well as other highways, but they also report seeing vehicles traveling too fast for conditions even when traffic is light.


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