News, Weather, wildfire

PGE: ‘increasingly likely’ chance of power shutoffs in western Washington County starting Friday over wildfire risk

Portland General Electric said that the likelihood of intentional power shutoffs—known as a Public Safety Power Shutoff or PSPS—is high in ten areas in their service territory, including Buxton, Manning, Timber, and areas surrounding Banks in the next 24 to 48 hours. West Oregon Electric Co-op customers in Washington County, who are served by power from PGE, could also be affected.

The city of Banks itself is not included in the area slated for a potential shutoff.

“A PSPS is when PGE turns off power in a limited, high-risk area to help reduce the risk of wildfire and to help protect people, property and the environment,” the utility company said in a press release Thursday. 

The areas that could be shutoff contain 30,000 customer meters. A full map of the areas affected can be found online

Locations such as Timber, Buxton, and Manning, Mountaindale, Hayward and more, as well as neighboring areas in Gales Creek and beyond are likely to see shutoffs if they become necessary, PGE said.

“PGE is actively monitoring conditions and will make the decision based on factors including wind speed, temperature, humidity and the dryness of trees and brush, field observations and information from local fire departments and agencies,” the utility company said, noting that they would attempt to provide up to four hours of notice before shutting off power. 

“PGE works year-round to help keep our system safe and resilient from wildfire, including managing over 2.2 million trees along 12,000 miles of power lines,” said Larry Bekkedahl, PGE’s senior vice president of Advanced Energy Delivery. “However, we are expecting extreme winds that could cause outages. We are preparing to have crews at the ready to begin repairing damage following the high winds, as soon as conditions are safe.”

PGE said anyone affected by a potential PSPS or a weather-related outage should prepare by making an emergency plan and assembling an emergency kit.

A PSPS can last for multiple days, PGE said, and any shutoffs will require PGE crews to make visual inspections on electric utility equipment to check for damage before power is restored. 

“PGE estimates a PSPS could be called on Friday morning, and power could be out through Saturday night. Assuming this event duration and no damage to our system, power restoration would begin Sunday morning and power to customers could be restored by Monday night,” the utility said.

PGE customer service can be reached at 503-228-6322. 

Red Flag Warning issued by Portland NWS

The Portland office of the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning to begin Friday morning through Saturday night. 

A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will shortly. A combination of the above conditions can contribute to extreme fire behavior.

Fire danger increases in Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands

The fire danger for areas protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry will be raised to “Extreme Friday morning at 1 a.m. for the general public, while Industrial Fire Precaution Levels (.PDF) will be raised in weather zones 2 and 3 to IFPL 3, the most restrictive IFPL short of a complete forest shutdown. 

More information on fire restrictions can be found online.

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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