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Some Lane County utility customers may wait a week or more for restored power

Icy power lines down near a major road.
EPUD said the double-whammy ice storm has created some of the most challenging conditions in the history of the utility. These downed wires are in Creswell.

Tuesday night’s ice storm dealt a blow to efforts to restore power in the southern Willamette Valley. Some customers may go without electricity for a week or more.

Emerald People’s Utility District serves more than 19,000 customers in rural areas, including Veneta and Marcola. EPUD General Manager Kyle Roadman said in a Facebook video late Tuesday that weather had caused a huge setback, especially in Creswell and Dexter. He said conditions are dangerous for crews working in the field. Boardman on McKenzie View Drive, whole trees are coming down and a foreman almost lost his life in a landslide Tuesday.

A man stands outdoors under a shelter, with icicles on the roofline.
EPUD via Facebook
Kyle Roadman

“This, I gotta say, is the worst that any of us at the utility have ever seen," he said in the video. "I can’t remember how many times I heard that said today, but ‘worst I’ve ever seen’ over and over and over again. We’re going to ask you to bear with us. I will say, if you’re out of power right now I would plan as if it will be a week or more, and in many areas it will be more.”

Roadman said they have 10 mutual aid crews helping Wednesday and will bring in more on Thursday. He said there are many repairs ahead, and the utility will get them done as safely and quickly as possible.

Blachly Lane Electric Cooperative also reported lost progress on power lines Tuesday night. A press release from the utility said to expect restoration to take several days, and asks people to stay off Highway 36 and 126 if possible, because crews will be in the roads making repairs.

EWEB: Restoring power in the McKenzie River corridor will take some time

A lineman works among ice-covered trees.
Eugene Water and Electric Board
An EWEB lineman works among ice-covered trees.

Tuesday’s ice storm gave the Eugene Water and Electric Board a significant setback on restoring power to its customers.

Spokesperson Aaron Orlowski said not only did new tree limbs fall on power lines from the weight of additional ice, but some limbs that had frozen in place fell as they thawed. He said more damage may happen if winds pick up as forecasted.

Orlowski said up the McKenzie River, transmission lines remain down, as has been the case for days. EWEB is waiting for its supplier, the Bonneville Power Administration, to fix the upstream transmission lines.

“So once they do that, and once we’re able to fix our transmission lines, that will be one step closer towards getting power restored for those customers," said Orlowski. "Because then we also need to make the fixes and the repairs on the distribution system.”

Orlowski said in town, EWEB will address large outages of hundreds of customers first. For people who are part of a smaller outage of just a few homes, the wait may be a few days.

On Wednesday at 9:30 p.m., EWEB's website indicated power had been restored to approximately 10,000 customers, with another 14,000 still in the dark.

'I honestly don't know what to do.'


Meanwhile, the prolonged power outages mean some residents are struggling with basic needs.

Julie Morris lives in Creswell with her children. Since her power went out Saturday, she has relocated to a motel in Eugene.

Now, Morris said she’s nearly drained her savings. And with nearby restaurants closed, she said it’s hard to get food without risking the slippery outdoors.

“I don't have anything to feed my children,” she said, “so I'm trying to figure that out right now.”

Morris said she doesn’t know what will happen when she has to leave the motel, but she’s worried for her family’s welfare.

“Being a single mom, it's scary,” said Morris. “All of our food went to waste at home in the fridge. I can't even get my car out of the driveway. So I honestly don't know what to do.”

Morris is part of the Emerald People’s Utility District. On Wednesday, it told customers to plan for a week or more without power.

“As a parent, I feel like it's not enough being done,” said Morris, “but I'm sure that they're doing everything they can.”

On Wednesday evening, the American Red Cross announced it had opened a shelter in Creswell for people experiencing extended power outages. The shelter is located at New Hope Baptist Church, 597 S. Front Street.

No more ice or snow in the forecast, for now

pickup truck drives through a big puddle, creating a splash
Jill Burke
Higher temperatures and rain have led to minor flooding on some Eugene streets, including near Valley River Center.

While power crews assess and repair damage, they apparently won't have any new freezing precipitation to deal with in the short term, at least in the southern Willamette Valley.

For the coming days, warmer temperatures and a lot of rain are in the forecast. That rain will help wash away the ice still on the ground, said Rebecca Muessle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland.

“But it will add some added weight to some of our trees, especially those that have leaves," she said. "So we can’t necessarily rule out that we could see some more falling trees. But, in general, it’s more on the beneficial side than the hindrance side.”

Muessle says forecasters are watching for the potential of flooding rivers and streams from all the extra moisture.

Boil order for parts of Springfield

The power outages and fallen trees have also complicated the everyday effort of providing safe drinking water in some areas. On Wednesday, the Springfield Utility Board issued a boil water notice for customers in its West and East distribution systems.

The impacted areas are generally south of Highway 126 and the Thurston neighborhood.

Officials are asking residents to boil water for at least a full minute. For those without power, they recommend using bottled water instead.

The utility says the ice storm has damaged its water distribution system.

On Wednesday evening, Lane County Public Health announced that restaurants in the East District should immediately cease food preparation until 24 hours after the boil order is lifted.

"This instruction comes due to the possibility of potentially harmful bacteria being present in the water supply and the subsequent inability for restaurants/delis to safely prepare and serve food," the agency said in a press release. "Restaurants within the affected area who have questions regarding this notice can call their Lane County Health Inspector."

A spokesperson for Lane County Public Health said the water pressure issues are more significant in the East District of SUB's water service area, so that's why the ban on restaurant food preparation only applies to the East District.

Note: Due to conflicting information provided by Springfield Utility Board, this story initially mis-stated the area covered by the Boil Order. KLCC regrets the error.

For the latest closings in the KLCC listening area, visit our  Closings page.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.
Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.
Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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