June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

City ends snow/ice emergency; parks still closed as crews respond to downed trees

6 min read
EWEB staff crews, working 16-hour days since the storm began, restored power to about 10,000 customers on Wednesday.

from Eugene Water and Electric Board, city of Eugene, Lane Transit District, and staff reports

After successive ice storms Jan. 12-17 toppled trees and power lines, closing roads, schools, businesses, and government offices, Eugene started to re-emerge Wednesday. After several days with low temperatures around 20 degrees, and a peak of 24,000 customers without electrical power, Wednesday’s high temperature hit 48, assisting crews as they restored power to about 10,000 customers and cleared ice, snow, and debris from roadways.

On Thursday, Jan. 18, Lane Transit District resumed service in Eugene and Springfield and the city lifted its snow/ice emergency parking ban for priority streets. With snow and ice on roadways significantly reduced, towing is less likely as community members can again park on the streets designated on the city’s priority map

City parks remain closed until potential hazards can be assessed. 

Lane County commissioners and Governor Tina Kotek declared a state of emergency in Lane County Jan. 16 due to the severe ice storm. The county declaration allows emergency-related expenditures up to $500,000, suspending any contracting regulations or procedures that “may limit execution of such contracts or spending.”

City crews will continue to address accumulated snow and ice, expanding to shared-use paths along the riverfront and Amazon Parkway. As time and equipment allows, they are scouting and clearing highly used bike lanes in the downtown and university areas. City crews are also assessing and clearing areas of puddling and flooding due to rainfall and melting snow and ice.

Tree crews are responding to hundreds of work orders for fallen trees and limbs or tree debris. Their highest priority is tree debris in the right of way, followed by assessing and clearing debris on the edges of roads and in medians.

“We have several tree crews out every day clearing and, when possible, hauling away debris,” said Chris Girard, Parks operations manager and current incident commander with Eugene Public Works. “Due to the dynamic nature of this ice storm, we expect our response work to be ongoing and long-term. We appreciate the responsiveness of community members who have alerted us to hazards in their areas.”

Community members can call 541-682-4800 to report a tree or limb blocking traffic. People should NOT move tree debris from their private property into the street for any reason as this blocks city vehicles trying to access the right of way. 

City tree response teams are working closely with EWEB, as some downed powerlines are tangled with trees and vice versa. If you see a downed line of any kind, do not touch it. Call EWEB at 1-844-484-2300 to report its location. 

EWEB estimates that it will take crews one week from Thursday to complete restoration of the customer-owned utility’s power system.

A large majority of customers are likely to see their power restored far sooner than one week, but some customers may still be without power for up to a week. A small number of customers in areas with difficult repairs and severe damage, such as more remote areas upriver, should prepare for more than a week before EWEB can restore power.

The estimate is based on experience from similar ice storms in 2016 and 2019. This year, the number of customers without power peaked at 24,000 on Wednesday morning, after a second round of ice struck the region, followed immediately by a thaw. The one-two punch erased days of progress in one fell swoop.

In 2016, the number of customers without power peaked at 20,000 and EWEB restored power to the majority of customers within eight days. And in 2019, the number of outages peaked at 24,000 and power was restored to the majority or customers within nine days.

The estimate may change depending on the scale of damage, available equipment to replace broken parts and how many contract crews are able to join EWEB staff crews, who have all been working 16-hour days since Saturday morning.

“Thursday is our sixth straight day of long shifts and little rest, and for some customers and our employees it’s their sixth day without power. We’re working at full tilt to get the power restored, and we’re going to continue to operate at our full potential by maintaining a steady, consistent, safe pace on restorations,” said Tyler Nice, EWEB electric operations manager. “Everyone here at EWEB is grateful for the continued patience of our customers as we get the power back on.”

On Wednesday, EWEB restored power for about 10,000 customers across Eugene, from the Willakenzie neighborhood to the Friendly neighborhood and everywhere in between. Restorations continued on Thursday and as of Thursday mid-day, about 13,000 customers remained without power.

Since the storm began, EWEB crews have followed standard policies of the “hierarchy of repair” to prioritize repairing equipment that serves the largest number of customers first. On Wednesday, that meant repairing “feeders” that deliver energy from substations to local distribution systems. Repairing these feeders allowed EWEB to restore power for large numbers of customers at once.

By late Wednesday night, EWEB had completed repairs on all in-town feeders. During the day, Wednesday, crews also moved on to repairing “taps” – which serve clusters of homes – where power was available. These repairs often take just as long to complete, even though they bring power back on for a far smaller number of customers. That means that the pace of restoration numbers will slow in the days ahead, even though all crews will still be fully dedicated to the effort.

In addition, the electric system doesn’t always align with the street network, and neighbors across the street from each other may be served by a different part of the system that still has power.

In some cases, customers may need to fix issues on equipment they own before they can get service. If a customer is the only person in their immediate area without power, there may be damage on the service line that leads into their home. Customers should check the weatherhead and meter base to make sure they didn’t sustain damage. If they did, customers should contact an electrician for repairs, which need to be completed before EWEB can restore service to the home.

In EWEB’s service territory in the McKenzie River Valley, crews spent Wednesday working on repairing long-distance transmission lines so they can reenergize the spine of EWEB’s grid in the area. Per EWEB’s hierarchy of repair policies, repairs to feeders will follow in the days ahead, with repairs to taps occurring last.

EWEB on Monday had restored service to the Hayden Bridge water filtration plant, after the loss of all three sources of electrical power during the first ice storm. The filtration plant was running on emergency generators.

Lane Transit District’s Customer Service Center reopened at 8 a.m. on Thursday Jan. 18, with bus service resuming at 9 a.m. RideSource resumed service at 5:30 a.m. on a case-by-case basis.

LTD’s rural bus routes remain suspended until they can be better assessed. South Lane service is suspended, as their facilities don’t have power or internet. 

Note that EmX service and some neighborhood routes may be modified due to icy conditions and tree debris. Check LTD’s Service Alerts page for the most updated information. Real-time signs and schedules may not be an accurate source because of weather-related delays on Thursday. 

To prepare to resume service Thursday, teams worked to clear snow, ice, and debris from LTD’s 1,300 bus stops, two primary stations, eight neighborhood transfer stations, 60 EmX platforms, and 20 miles of bus lanes.

With an eye towards keeping employees and riders safe, LTD suspended all service from Jan. 14-Jan 17. The LTD board of directors Jan. 17 meeting was also cancelled and will be rescheduled.

LTD passengers can find the latest information at the website LTD.org and on social media. For the latest information about EWEB power outages, see the online EWEB power outage map. To learn more about how the city of Eugene responds to storms, see Storm Response

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