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Much of Douglas County Remains Without Power

Douglas County Government
A winter snow storm tore down trees and power lines in Douglas County this week.

This week’s winter storm left thousands of Oregonians without electricity. Many residents in Douglas County didn’t have power for several days, and some will continue to lack power for several more.

Parts of the county got more than a foot of snow over the weekend, triggering a wave of blackouts. 

Pacific Power has restored power to most of its customers. But rural homes serviced by the local utility, Douglas Electric Company, could remain without power for several more days.

Douglas Electric's Todd Munsey said the utility is having trouble restoring power to residential homes in the most rural parts of the county, largely because of accesibility issues.

"We are doing everything we possibly can," Munsey said.  "We brought in outside crews, and our linemen are working 24-hour shifts.

Munsey said most of his employees are living without power, too, including himself. People are doing what they can to stay warm without electricity.

“A few have generators," Munsey said. "A few have managed to snatch up propane heaters. A lot of people have wood stoves in our service territory. But it's the folks with the electric furnaces, the heat pumps, that just aren't going to work for heating or cooking.”

Victoria Batshon of Roseburg has a wood stove, but she needed to get permission from her landlord to use it first.

“About 30 minutes into me being home on Sunday, my power went out," Batshon said. "I ended up having to go hang out in the car with my son with the heater on.”

Batshon eventually got help from family members.

Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt said the county was the hardest hit in the state. He says heavy rains soaked into trees, weakening them just before a heavy snow storm.

“It’s one thing if it goes an inch, then two more inches, but this was a foot in a number of hours," Gauntt said. "That put immediate stress on those limbs and branches.”

About 26,000 residents in the county were without power at the storm’s peak on Monday. Pacific Power has restored electricity to most of those residences.

The Red Cross has a warming shelter in Winston for people who need services.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.