Wind causes damages, power outages

Trees fell all over Florence during the early morning hours of Jan. 3. These homeowners on West 30th Street had their hands full when a damaged tree fell on the family’s SUV. (photo by Zac Burtt/Siuslaw News)

City of Florence, Central Lincoln PUD tackle downed trees and lines

Jan. 4, 2022 — A major rain and windstorm swept through the Florence area on Sunday, causing crews from Florence Public Works to respond to numerous incidents throughout the night and continuing into the beginning of the first week of the year.

Assistant City Manager Megan Messmer reported that public works crews have been working diligently to clear areas blocked by trees downed in the storm.

“We had crews out all night (Sunday) night, starting at about 10 p.m. with the first calls for downed trees. A number of trees were triaged last night and early this morning. During the night, crews were able to work with both Central Lincoln PUD and the other communications utilities to address downed trees safely. In many areas they were able to relieve pressure from lines and move downed trees out of the major roadways,” Messmer said.

Public Works Director Mike Miller visited impacted areas of town during and after the storm front swept through Florence and coordinated the overall cleanup.

“They were also out pushing/pulling trees out of the road to keep traffic flowing,” Messmer said. “You may have seen this evidence with fallen trees piled up on the sides of roadways, in parking lots or on side streets and coned off. (Monday) morning, crews focused on cleanup of the downed trees. This includes chipping the limbs they can and hauling the larger sections away. Our power broom is also out sweeping debris.”

The downed trees caused a two-hour delay on Monday for both the Mapleton and Siuslaw school districts. Siuslaw ultimately canceled school for the day, citing “multiple road closures and power outages.”

Central Lincoln PUD is directly responsible for repairing and maintaining electrical power lines in this part of the region.

CLPUD Public Information Officer Chris Chandler provided an update on the status of repairs after the storm and said the severity of the weather required a team effort to  fully respond to the damage inflicted and that repairs are ongoing.

“We are very pleased that five utilities have responded to our call for mutual aid under the Western Regional Mutual Assistance Group (WRMAG), of which we have been a member for years.  Blatchly-Lane Co-op, Columbia River and Tillamook PUDs, Salem Electric Co-op, and Douglas Co-op have all sent crews that will be helping us out Tuesday morning,” she said. “We were able to help Salem’s Co-op last year during the terrible snow/ice storm they experienced, and Douglas Co-op some years ago after a fearsome snowstorm flattened some of its poles and lines near our infrastructure in Reedsport.”

Chandler said the storm showed a peak wind gust of 89 mph on one speed sensor and a 96 mph reading at another at approximately 3:45 a.m. Monday.  

According to CLPUD outage map on clpud.org, as of Tuesday morning, there were still 55 outages in Lane County. The largest remaining outage had 65 customers, and a total of approximately 850 customers remained without power. 

At 10 p.m. Monday, CLPUD posted, “Our crews have gone home to get some rest — many had been working since 9 p.m. last night. They will be back at it at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. If your power is not on at this time, as we have said today previously, the earliest it will be restored may be tomorrow, and perhaps later.  We hate outages, and we know our customers do, too.”

According to CLPUD, “This storm was one of the worst we’ve experienced in many years.  Early this morning, we had 10,000 of our 41,000 customers without power!  We are now down to 1,877 without power.”

Outages in Florence persisted in Mitchell Loop, Siltcoos Station, Mercer Lake Road, the Woahink/Collins Loop area, Erhart Road, Southview and Collard.

“We thank all of you for your understanding at this time, and your patience.  We will handle the remaining outages as safely and quickly as we possibly can,” CLPUD added. 

One of the most heavily damaged locations was at Old Town Park in Historic Old Town, where tree limbs fell on benches and walkways.

“For Old Town Park specifically, large limbs came down and at least one tree will need to be removed. Debris is in power lines and we need to wait to have power cleared before crews can work on the debris. We also have trees down in other parks,” Messmer said.

In addition to addressing storm damage, Public Works crews also made sure the Florence water and wastewater plants are operational.

“Having power flickering on and off causes issues at the plants and at the sewer pump stations,” Messmer said. “The city’s 31st Street pump stations did lose power (both water and sewer); however, there is an emergency generator power at the water pump station there and  crews were able to take portable generators out to the sewer pump station.

Another aspect of the storm is the impact it had on the unhoused. The Florence Emergency Cold Weather Shelter normally operates only when the temperature approaches freezing, but an exception was made due to the storm and the shelter will remain open until Wednesday morning.

Accuweather have also predicted a new front is entering the Pacific Northwest, which will affect weather patterns in this area later in the week.

"An additional wave of moisture is set to push into the Pacific Northwest as soon as Tuesday evening, which will usher in yet another round of steadier precipitation into the area," AccuWeather Meteorologist Mary Gilbert said.

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