Gales Creek, News, Wildfire

PGE: ‘increasingly likely’ chance of power shutoffs in Gales Creek 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 most of Gales Creek, Glenwood, and Hillside in the next 24 to 48 hours. 

“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

Almost all homes in the Gales Creek region are included in the potential PSPS area, as are neighboring locations such as Timber, Buxton, and Manning, including West Oregon Electric Co-op customers, who are served by power from Portland General Electric (PGE).

“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.

Outages could affect Gales Creek, Dilley schools

The Forest Grove School District said that two of their schools—Oak Grove Academy located in the Gales Creek School building and Dilley Elementary School—could see their power cut in the event of a PSPS. Their other schools are located in Forest Grove, where that city’s municipal electric utility has not planned any intentional shutoffs. 

“The district is in contact with PGE and is actively monitoring the situation,” Forest Grove School District Superintendent Dave Parker said in a statement. “If PGE does decide to shut off power in their service area, Dilley Elementary and the Oak Grove Academy Gales Creek campus will be affected. The district will immediately communicate with these families of the resulting decision whether or not to close school. Information will be communicated through ParentSquare, district/building websites and social media. Please monitor these channels closely,” he said. 

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

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