Oregon Adopts A California Strategy And Turns Off The Power During Strong Winds And Raging Fires

In an effort to reduce the risk of wildfires in the region’s unusually dry and hot weather, Oregon utilities cut electricity to tens of thousands of customers on Friday as dry easterly winds rushed in.

Extreme fire weather-related power outages, which are prevalent in California, are uncommon in the Pacific Northwest. The measures represent the new reality in a region better known for its rain and temperate rainforests. They are a part of permanent rules that were authorized in May to manage wildfire hazards in high-risk regions.

Pacific Power cut service to more than 7,000 customers in a small community on the Pacific Coast, where a wildfire burned two years ago, and in some areas southeast of the state capital of Salem. Portland General Electric cut power to about 30,000 customers in 12 service areas, including the upscale West Hills neighborhood of Portland.

Authorities warned residents to charge smartphones and be prepared to escape at a moment’s notice, and schools in the areas affected by the expected power disruptions canceled lessons.

A wildfire that had been blazing in the wilderness for a month southeast of Eugene, Oregon, was being whipped up by the winds and was now heading straight for the little town of Oakridge, where inhabitants had been told to evacuate. As the Cedar Creek Fire encroached on the 3,200-person town late Friday, Governor Kate Brown issued a fire emergency declaration.

According to Erica Fleishman, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University, climate change is bringing drier conditions to the Pacific Northwest, which calls for techniques that have been widely used in fire-prone California for the previous ten or more years.

Although wind patterns haven’t altered, they are now more commonly accompanied by drier vegetation and hotter temperatures, creating a toxic combination that favors fire initiation, rapid spread, and intense fire behavior, according to her.

Fleishman added, “I don’t know if this is the answer, but it’s an interim effort to minimize wildfire risk.” They are exclaiming, “Oh my gosh! They are understanding that the places we previously believed to be protected are no longer safe from fire. The likelihood of fire is evolving.

Oregon Adopts A California Strategy And Turns Off The Power During Strong Winds And Raging Fires
Oregon Adopts A California Strategy And Turns Off The Power During Strong Winds And Raging Fires

The proactive power cuts were Portland General Electric’s second ever. During the state-wide firestorms in 2020 around Mount Hood, the company cut off electricity to 5,000 customers. Over the Labor Day weekend, severe winds caused wildfires that consumed more than 1 million acres, 4,000 homes, and at least 11 lives. Some of these fire starts were attributed to utilities.

Another significant utility in Oregon, Pacific Power, stated that Friday’s shutoffs were the first ever for the firm. In order to identify high-risk locations, the organization implemented a wildfire prevention strategy in Oregon in 2018. This strategy includes analyzing wind and weather trends.

Residents of two communities that were completely destroyed in the 2020 flames sued the utility last year, blaming it for failing to turn off the power in advance of the catastrophic windstorm.

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