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Ice storms, damaged trees cause thousands to lose power in mid-valley
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Ice storms, damaged trees cause thousands to lose power in mid-valley

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Ice storms in Linn County and Benton County on Friday night knocked out power for thousands of customers and left roads littered with fallen trees and branches.

A spokesperson for Pacific Power said some customers will be without power through Monday morning. Many ice-laden trees snapped under the weight, falling on power lines and causing transformers to blow out in showers of blue and orange sparks. 

The extreme conditions, loss of power and transportation problems statewide prompted Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to declare a state of emergency Saturday afternoon.

“Crews are out in full force now and are coordinating with local emergency response teams on communications for emergency services, such as warming centers,” Brown said in a statement. “I'm committed to making state resources available to ensure crews have the resources they need on the ground.”

The Oregon Department of Transportation had every crew it had mobilized Saturday morning and was working closely with utility providers to remove downed power lines and road hazards.

“We are doing a ton of work right now all over the area,” said Angela Beers Seydel, ODOT spokesperson.

Beers Seydel said crews from the Eugene area were called in to assist in the efforts. Beers-Seydel also said people should stay off the roads if possible and check ODOT TripCheck before traveling anywhere

Lt. Craig Vogt with the Linn County Sheriff’s Office said there were road hazards all over the county but said road crews and utility providers were working throughout the county to remove hazards and restore power. Vogt also said he had yet to hear about any serious property damage or injuries in the area. Some traffic signals still were out in the Albany area as late as Saturday afternoon.

Adam Miller, deputy with the Benton County Sheriff's Office said there was one accident on Highway 20 near Blodgett. The accident involved a single vehicle and the driver suffered minor injuries. 

Approximately 7,500 Pacific Power customers in Linn County and Benton County were without power late Saturday afternoon, Pacific Power officials. More than 3,000 Consumers Power customers in the area were also without power.

Polk County, Marion County and Clackamas County were hit harder with outages, with more than 200,000 customers in the three counties without power by late Saturday. Most of those are Portland General Electric customers, which has a much larger customer base in the area.

By mid-day Saturday, more than 1,200 PGE power lines were down, a spokesman said.

The ice and snowfall caused treacherous driving conditions, forcing Oregon transportation officials to close Interstate 84 in the Columbia River Gorge, and the regional transit agency TriMet suspended all bus and train service in the region.

Some Washington state residents also were socked in by the weather, with snow falling throughout the Seattle region on Saturday morning and freezing rain falling along the coast in Grays Harbor County. The city of Seattle activated its Emergency Operations Center Saturday morning to coordinate the city's winter storm response.

The Associated Press and poweroutage.us contributed to this report.

K. Rambo can be contacted at 541-812-6091 or k.rambo@lee.net. Follow on Twitter via @k_rambo_.

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