Oregon deploys National Guard for welfare checks post-winter storm

By Ryan Haas (OPB)
Feb. 19, 2021 9:27 p.m. Updated: Feb. 20, 2021 12:02 a.m.

More than 61,000 Portland General Electric Customers remained without power Friday afternoon, following a winter storm that slammed Oregon over the President’s Day weekend.

That number is down considerably from its peak, but leaders in Clackamas County said they are pleased the state will deploy the National Guard to ensure the safety of Oregonians hardest hit by the outages.


“We have asked for support from Guard members to provide wellness checks to allow us to reach every household,” Clackamas County Chairperson Tootie Smith said in a statement Friday. “We are particularly concerned about our rural residents, making sure that those who are homebound are visited.”


At the peak of the storm damage, hundreds of thousands of customers were without power. Clackamas and Marion counties remain the hardest hit from the storm, with some rural customers remaining without electricity for a week, even as cold temperatures persist. Gov. Kate Brown announced the deployment of the National Guard during a news conference Friday.

Clackamas County has established centers to distribute food and water to residents, but leaders there said some people cannot make it to the centers on their own. They plan to use National Guard members to help with the delivery of needed goods, in addition to the wellness checks.

“With the help of the National Guard, our odds of connecting with everyone who remains without power are much greater,” state Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby, said. “My thanks to the Governor for calling up the National Guard to help protect the lives and safety of our neighbors.”

Portland General Electric launched a website Friday that shows active outages and how long those outages could last. Some areas, like Gresham, are expected to have service back within three days. Other areas, like Silverton, could face up to nine days before customers have power back.

“Silverton is about 2,400 customers ... It is one of the hardest hit areas,” said PGE vice president of grid architecture Larry Bekkedahl. “Currently we have five crews there that are doing restoration.”

PGE president and CEO Maria Pope said the company would continue to prioritize senior citizens and other vulnerable populations as they worked to restore power across the region.


Related Stories