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Ice storm knocks down trees and takes out power to thousands in Lincoln County, closes roads and highways

A close-up of an ice-covered railing on the Yaquina Bay Bridge.
Ice coated the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport on Saturday as a storm closed roads, knocked out power and led the city to declare a state of emergency.

This story was originally published on YachatsNews.com and is used with permission.

A surprise ice storm knocked out power to wide swaths of Lincoln County on Saturday and Sunday, closing highways connecting the coast to the Willamette Valley and leading the city of Newport on Saturday and Lincoln County on Sunday to declare a state of emergency.

Rain followed by rapidly dropping temperatures moved into the county from the north Saturday caused ice to accumulate on trees, took down power lines and closed main and secondary roads from Newport north through Lincoln City.

Weather forecasts warned of ice or snow problems on the north Oregon coast caused by frigid winds blowing down the Columbia River Gorge, but did not predict major issues on the central coast. That changed when strong east winds moved into much of Lincoln County early Saturday and turned rain into ice and sleet.

Businesses throughout the county closed for the day Saturday and most events and activities were canceled because of the outages and treacherous conditions. Many businesses in Newport were closed again Sunday, others were trying to operate on generators.

The city of Newport was setting up an emergency shelter at its recreation center with people staying in its two gyms. More than 100 residents and staff from the Oceanview Assisted Living facility were expected to use the shelter because the facility on Northeast 71st Street has been without power since Saturday.

a tree across a road
A tree loaded with ice fell across Yaquina Heights Road in Newport on Saturday, an event repeated across much of Lincoln County that knocked out power to thousands and closed streets and highways.

The Central Lincoln Peoples Utility District said Sunday that the damage to its lines from falling trees likely meant that thousands of customers in Toledo, Siletz and from Agate Beach north to Lincoln Beach could be without power again Sunday night. Early Sunday evening, it confirmed that would be the case.

Fifteen miles of Oregon Highway 20 east of Newport were closed Saturday and early Sunday morning because of falling trees but reopened to traffic shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday. The Oregon Department of Transportation warned of an “extremely icy” road, however. The highway cameras that were working Sunday showed parts of Highway 20 covered in ice and snow.

The first four miles of Oregon Highway 18 north of Lincoln City were closed for a time.

Oregon Highway 229 from Toledo through Siletz to Lincoln City was closed, but county officials said many people were ignoring closure signs, driving the road and encountering downed trees or other issues.

Highway 34 between Waldport and Philomath had lots of downed trees and black ice with one-lane traffic in some areas.

Southern parts of the county from Seal Rock through Yachats and Tenmile were hit by repeated power outages Saturday and Sunday lasting 4-6 hours, but roads were not iced over until further inland on Highway 34 east of Waldport or Highway 126 east of Florence.

“This is a really, really severe event and we expect it to stay cold enough to keep things frozen until Wednesday,” David House, a regional spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said Sunday morning.

Power outages were widespread both Saturday and Sunday.

At one point early Sunday the Central Lincoln People’s Utility District reported more than 12,000 customers were without power from Newport to south of Yachats. That had dropped to 6,300 later Sunday.

Pacific Power, which serves north Lincoln County, reported 2,500 customers without power Sunday morning, mostly in the Lincoln City and Otis areas.

“This storm is beating us up,” said a Central Lincoln PUD social media post Saturday. “Crews get a couple thousand on, then we lose a couple thousand more.”

The utility pulled repair crews about 9:20 p.m. Saturday because of dark, dangerous conditions caused by the ice and falling trees and said they would be back to work at 6 a.m. Sunday. They were scheduled to end shifts at 10 p.m. Sunday, the utility said.

Central Lincoln said Sunday that because of the extensive ice damage and large number of trees and wires down, its customers in Toledo, Siletz, and areas from the Newport Walmart store north through Agate Beach, Beverly Beach, and Depoe Bay to Lincoln Beach “should start preparing for another night without power.”

CLPUD spokesman Mark Freeman said Sunday that repair crews are working 16-hour shifts and that the utility had moved staff from less-affected areas in Florence and Reedsport to the north. Crews of 3-4 were working on major problems while one-person crews worked on more isolated outages in the Bayshore area north of Waldport, parts of downtown Yachats or neighborhoods along or south of the Yachats River.

“We know it’s not good and people want to know whether to stay or go,” Freeman said. “We appreciate our customers’ patience.”

Usually during bad coastal storms, Central Lincoln can request help from utilities in the valley or southern Oregon. But much of Oregon is also in bad shape, so the only additional help available Sunday was a crew from Clatskanie. More crews were coming Monday from utilities in Washington state, Freeman said.

“With the Willamette Valley in as bad or worse shape we’re working as fast as we can with the resources we have,” he said. “But right now we’re on our own.”

Freeman said the largest outages Saturday and overnight Sunday — including outages from Florence to Reedsport — were caused by the loss of large transmission lines belonging to Bonneville Power Administration, which brings electricity to Central Lincoln from the valley.

“The good thing is that we don’t expect any more ice today,” he said Sunday morning.

The utility said there was “significant” damage to a transmission loop north and east of Newport and that the closure of Highway 229 was limiting its ability to assess and repair the damage. It brought in a helicopter Sunday to help survey issues.

In a social media post, Central Lincoln said its focus were problems between Newport and Agate Beach, where three poles were broken Saturday night and transmission and feeder lines “were on the ground this morning.”

“We are hopeful we can get the transmission back up to Newport today, but it’s not a given,” the post said.

Sunday evening Freeman said that would not happen.

“If you power is not on now it probably won’t be,” he said. “It’s a spider web of trees, downed poles and lines. It’s not the news we wanted to share.”

The city of Newport declared an emergency Saturday evening due to the storm’s impacts. A news release from the city said at least one person was hospitalized and others were injured by falling trees, including at least one which struck an encampment of homeless people.

“Substantial public and private damage has occurred due to down trees and loss of power,” the notice said. “Trees have landed on buildings, vehicles, and power lines.”

Although Highway 101 was clear or graveled in most places Sunday, many side streets in Newport were closed or littered with trees, branches and other debris and overhead lines were sagging under the weight of ice. Police asked people in the area to minimize travel.

To compound Newport’s problems Saturday, the city said a vacuum truck that had been pumping at waste stations because it lacked electricity was hit by a falling tree.

With Highway 229 closed, many other roads around Siletz impassable and the power out for at least another day, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians opened a daytime warming shelter in a tribal administration building at noon Sunday. It said food will be provided.


Samaritan Health Service’s hospitals in Newport and Lincoln City called in employees early Saturday to make sure they were staffed well enough. Both hospitals had to rely on emergency generator power “off and on” Saturday, said Samaritan spokeswoman Mary Jo Kerlin, but had power Sunday.

Kerlin said both hospitals were full and several patients were being held in emergency rooms because the highways to its regional hospital in Corvallis or other hospitals in the valley were closed. The two hospitals typically transfer an average of four patients a day to the valley for advanced care.

Samaritan closed its urgent care clinics in Newport and Lincoln City on Saturday. The Newport clinic reopened at noon Sunday; the Lincoln City clinic would remain closed Sunday because of icy conditions, Kerlin said.

Businesses & people

Hundreds of businesses in the county were affected by the outages Saturday and into Sunday.

Most businesses along Highway 101 in Yachats were without power Sunday morning. Ray’s Market in Waldport had to close Saturday but was open Sunday with long lines of customers. Waldport restaurants were open Sunday.

The Fred Meyer store in Newport was open and appeared to be running on generators with many lights out. Employees directed a reporter to call their corporate office for comment. The nearby Safeway store was closed as was Walmart farther north.

Restaurants south of Fred Meyer were open, as were some on the Newport bayfront and they were packed with customers who had no electricity at home.

The Newport Ace Hardware store was open Sunday, but without power. The store was dark, so employees and customers were using flashlights and cell phone lights to shop. Staff were writing down credit card information to handle sales and there was a long line of customers.

“They are thankful that we are here,” said hardware store employee Brian Laborde, who came into work when other staffers couldn’t get to Newport.

Harlan Matthews of Toledo has a boat docked in Newport and was at McKay’s Market on Sunday getting supplies for his crabbing crew. He had been without electricity for 24 hours at home but was able to switch to a generator.

“I was supposed to take off to go fishing this morning but none of my crew can make it to the boat,” Matthews said. “I’m still not sure if they can make it but I’m loading groceries here and I’ll find out. Power is still out at my house. I’m guessing we’ll have to go another night possibly. And we are lucky because we have alternate power.”

Genese Mullin of Otter Rock was also shopping at McKay’s and been without power since 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Mullin said conditions at her house were OK and then “you get to Moolack Beach it turns to ice.”

“I’m thankful the stores are open,” Mullin said. “We do have a wood stove so we are able to keep some heat going and some water heated. Learning how to make coffee on a wood stove again.”


On Sunday, the city of Newport said in a news release that electricity remains out generally north of Northeast 15th Street, although its fire statioin and businesses south of that are also affected.

“The transmission lines and poles were taken out on Big Creek Road and other locations, making this a challenging operation,’ the city said in a news release.

The emergency shelter at the Newport Recreation Center was a combined operation between the city and county, with help from emergency service volunteers, the Newport fire department and Pacific West Ambulance. Center staff had a 15-passenger van available to pick people up who needed rides, including overflow from the county’s winter shelter for the homeless.

Online resources:

Go to Oregon TripCheck for the state’s latest road conditions

Central Lincoln PUD outage map

Central Lincoln PUD outage information

Lincoln County emergency alerts and information

Pacific Power outages and information

Quinton Smith founded YachatsNews in 2019 after a 40-year career as a reporter and editor for United Press International and three Oregon newspapers. He worked in various editing positions at The Oregonian from 1984 to 2008 where he led a reporting team that won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News.