Thousands of Oregonians remain without power, with ice storm forecast Tuesday

By Courtney Sherwood (OPB) and Joni Auden Land (OPB)
Jan. 15, 2024 5:45 p.m. Updated: Jan. 16, 2024 4:56 p.m.

Tens of thousands of Oregon homes and businesses were still without electricity Tuesday morning, as the National Weather Service warned of more challenging conditions to come, prompting numerous school districts large and small to cancel Tuesday classes.

An ice storm warning was issued for the Portland metro, Southwest Washington and the Willamette Valley area from 1 p.m. Tuesday to 4 a.m. Wednesday, and the National Weather Service warned of significant ice and up to 8 inches of snow at elevations above 2,500 feet. More trees could fall, prompting further power failures, according to forecasts, and weather service officials said travel is strongly discouraged.


The weather agency also issued a winter storm watch for the Northern Oregon Cascades, warning of wind gusts as high as 55 miles per hour and 10-15 inches of fresh snow at high elevations from 1 p.m. Tuesday through 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Since extreme cold spread across much of Oregon on Friday, hundreds of downed trees have been reported across the state. At least four people may have died of weather-related causes. And more than 1,000 power company employees have been engaged in the effort to restore electricity.

For a time, more than 200,000 locations were without power across the state. Portland General Electric and Pacific Power have warned that some of their customers could face prolonged outages.

Oregon power outages map

Nearly every Oregon highway has been affected by challenging conditions over the past few days, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation, which encouraged drivers to limit travel, and to expect delays and bring emergency supplies when taking to the road.

At least four deaths may be tied to cold, falling trees

The Multnomah County medical examiner’s office said on Sunday it is investigating two suspected hypothermia deaths in Portland. One person died Friday in inner Northeast Portland and the other died Saturday in Portland’s 97217 zip code, officials said. Both people who died are male, and confirmation on each cause of death will take weeks or months, the county said in a press release. No other details were released.

Separately, Portland Fire & Rescue said a person died after a tree fell, hitting an RV, a power pole and a transformer, which affected their ability to help. Firefighters struggled to respond as they worked around downed electrical wires and found the nearest hydrant was not working, likely due to ice. Three people escaped the RV alive, but a fourth, a woman in her early 30s, was trapped by the fallen tree and died inside. A fire investigator determined the people in the RV were using an open flame stove to keep warm when the tree fell, causing the RV to catch fire.

And in Lake Oswego, a tree crashed through the second floor of a house in the Southwood neighborhood, killing an older man who was inside, according to officials there.

Numerous houses, power lines damaged by trees

Topher Sinkinson was eating breakfast at his Southeast Portland home Saturday when a tree crashed into his roof, sending piles of insulation into his house.

The fallen tree landed on live power lines operated by Portland General Electric, and Sinkinson said the power lines must be removed before crews can remove the tree.

“I think with the power lines being against the house and being in the tree the way that they are, it’s a little scary for us to be here,” he said.

Topher Sinkinson reported that a tree crashed through his roof, but he could not remove it until Portland General Electric addressed power lines that were also knocked down.

Topher Sinkinson reported that a tree crashed through his roof, but he could not remove it until Portland General Electric addressed power lines that were also knocked down.

courtesy of Topher Sinkinson


As of Sunday afternoon, Sinkinson said, he still could not reach PGE, and the tree remained on top of the house.

Lisa Tadewaldt, an arborist with Urban Forest Pro in Portland, told OPB that her business has been flooded with calls from people who had trees crash into their homes. It could be days before some trees are removed.

“The amount of trees on houses, it’s the most it’s ever been,” Tadewaldt said. “I don’t know what the insurance claim numbers are going to be, but they’re going to be high. It’s going to be insane.”

City officials from Newport reported that a tree fell on a homeless camp, injuring at least one person, on Saturday. The coastal community saw multiple additional injuries reported due to downed trees, and numerous streets blocked off by downed power lines.

Fallen trees have also hampered emergency response efforts, blocking roads and threatening police and fire crews as they work. While crews were responding to the fallen tree that killed a Lake Oswego man on Saturday, another tree fell onto a vehicle just two doors down, city officials said.

“Today, we have had at least around 20 different trees fall onto homes, which is very rare. I have never seen this many in my 25-year career here at Lake Oswego Fire,” Lake Oswego Fire Marshall Gert Zoutendijk said on Saturday.

Portland sewers strained by cold

The cold weather also strained Portland’s sewer system. The city’s largest pump station is only partially operating due to a frozen pipe, the Bureau of Environmental Services said in a press release sent Sunday.

Power failures have also affected the city’s main treatment plant and some of Portland’s 99 other pump stations.

Portland's largest sewage pump station, which serves downtown and the surrounding inner city, was under partial service due to a frozen pipe on Jan. 15, 2024. Officials said there was no public impact.

Portland's largest sewage pump station, which serves downtown and the surrounding inner city, was under partial service due to a frozen pipe on Jan. 15, 2024. Officials said there was no public impact.

Courtesy of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services

A backup generator near East Burnside and 105th Avenue froze on Saturday, sending sewage into about a dozen homes.

Officials said they hope to have repairs to the city’s biggest pump station complete by Tuesday night. If they don’t succeed, the city may have to ask residents to limit flushing and dishwashing — but officials don’t expect that will be necessary.

Warming shelters stay open, school and event cancellations announced

With temperatures likely to remain below freezing in much of Northwest Oregon until Wednesday, and the threat of high winds and additional precipitation, officials have started to extend warming shelter hours and to announce cancellations for Monday and Tuesday.

Portland Public Schools, Salem-Keizer Schools, and Eugene 4J will be closed on Tuesday, and a number of other districts in Oregon and Southwest Washington have also canceled classes. The Beaverton School District was already planning a staff support day and did not have classes scheduled for Tuesday.

Multnomah County officials extended their shelter resources through at least noon Tuesday, and Clackamas County staff said shelters there will stay open until at least Tuesday as well.

In Lincoln County, where one in five utility customers did not have electricity on Monday morning, several temporary warming shelters are in place, including one in Newport that officials said will stay open until power is restored.

Several Martin Luther King Jr. Day-related gatherings were canceled, including SOLVE’s Day of Service celebration and the racial justice group Don’t Shoot Portland’s annual Reclaim MLK March.

A number of transit agencies have reported cancelations or delays, including Oregon’s largest, the Portland metro area’s TriMet, which suspended all rail service due to weather conditions through the holiday weekend, though some Max blue line rides resumed on Tuesday.