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'It's Dire:' 4,800 Still Without Power In Douglas County After Snowstorm

A snowstorm that dumped "more snow than most people have ever seen in their lives" has kept hundreds without power in rural Douglas County – and that'll remain the case for at least another three weeks in some areas.

Thousands of downed trees from a massive dump of snow last week has caused millions of dollars in damage – including hundreds of broken utility poles and miles of power lines scattered across snow-covered stretches of rural Douglas County.

Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency for the area last week as a result of severe winter weather. Crews from all over Oregon are starting at 40-hour shifts as they work to rebuild parts of the system from the ground up.

"It's dire," said Todd Munsey, director of member services for Douglas Electric Cooperative. "We are going to need to fly in poles and wire to essentially rebuild the system in some areas. That needs to be done before we can even think about energizing substations and distribution feeders, and ultimately getting out to the individual houses."

More than 4,800 customers remain without power in areas that include Elkton, Scottsburg, Curtain and the Upper Smith River. Power could be out for up to two weeks in Elkhead, Scotts Valley, Hogan Road and Umpqua/Tyee.

On Facebook, Elkton residents painted a desperate situation. Posts detailed family members trying to reach other family members. The Elkton High School girls' basketball players made it to Eugene, one post read, but one of the players is worried about her grandma who lives in a log cabin.

"If anyone makes it up there," the post read, "Her name is Mary."

An emergency shelter has been set up at the Elkton High School gymnasium where showers and heat are being provided. The highway to town was closed for days before state transportation crews could even reach the equipment it needs to address damages. While travel on roads has improved, many of the Douglas Electric Cooperative's service areas are only accessible by foot.

"It's unlike anything we've seen here before," Munsey said. "We had three options to serve Elkton. All of them are trashed — they're all gone." 

Munsey heard from one resident in the county who asked for immediate power restoration for her disabled mother whose health is failing. Munsey's own family was without power last week. His wife started taking food out from the refrigerator and is putting it in the snow on his deck. 

"It's a matter of people really kind of cowboyin' up and helping each other," Munsey said. "Nobody's a priority and everybody's a priority."

Over 100 people are now trimming trees and building roads to transmission sites in areas still under 3 feet of snow.

"We're making progress," Munsey said. "We're just concentrating on getting as many people back on as quickly as we can. And we're going to be cleaning this up all summer long and into the fall, after all is said and done."

<p>Douglas County is still struggling with downed trees.</p>

Matt Yates


Douglas County is still struggling with downed trees.

<p>A map outlines restoration estimates around Douglas County.&nbsp;</p>

Douglas Electric Cooperative


A map outlines restoration estimates around Douglas County. 

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Ericka Cruz Guevarra