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Northwest storm leaves over 200,000 without power

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A person runs in the snow, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Winter weather was expected to continue through the weekend in the region.(AP Photo/Ted S.
A person runs in the snow, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Winter weather was expected to continue through the weekend in the region.(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Photo Gallery

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. — Hundreds of thousands of people remained without power in the Pacific Northwest after a winter storm blanketed the region with ice and snow and made travel treacherous.

The greater Portland, Oregon, area was the hardest hit, with more than 200,000 people still without power Sunday. Authorities said it could be a day or more before electricity is fully restored, and forecasters warned of more hazardous weather through Monday.

With a number of transmission lines and substations knocked out of service and ice and wind still threatening to bring down tree limbs, some people could experience multiple outages or prolonged outages, said Steve Corson, a spokesperson for PGE, one of the area’s major electricity providers.

“Our hope would be that most would be restored sooner than that, but some customers will be affected for several days,” he said.

The utility, which had over 250,000 customers without power on Saturday, is bringing in crews from Nevada and Montana to help restore power, he said.

The extreme conditions, loss of power and transportation problems prompted Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to declare a state of emergency for the greater metro area Saturday.

“Crews are out in full force now and are coordinating with local emergency response teams on communications for emergency services, such as warming centers,” Brown said in a statement. “I’m committed to making state resources available to ensure crews have the resources they need on the ground.”

Winter storms and extreme cold affected much of the U.S. West over the weekend, particularly endangering homeless communities. Volunteers and shelter staffers worked to ensure homeless residents in Casper, Wyoming while authorities in western Washington and western Oregon opened warming shelters in an effort to protect homeless residents from the wet and cold.

Arctic air caused temperatures to plunge to the negative 30s in parts of Montana and high temperatures were not expected to rise above zero or get much higher in eastern Wyoming or Colorado.

In the Portland area, many trees snapped under the weight of ice, falling on power lines and causing transformers to blow out in showers of blue and orange sparks.

Brian Zevenbergen watched Saturday as a crew sawed up two large, ice-covered trees that had crashed across his driveway overnight, narrowly missing two cars parked there. His house in Lake Owego had also lost power overnight. Just around the corner, another massive tree blocked the street in the suburb south of Portland and had taken out a city street light.

“Last night, everything was standing, and this morning the two trees had me blocked in the driveway and were blocking at least half the street,” he said. “Friends on the lower levels have power, so I have invites to go hang out there.”

The ice and snowfall caused treacherous driving conditions, forcing Oregon transportation officials to close Interstate 84 in the Columbia River Gorge, and the regional transit agency TriMet suspended all bus and train service in the region on Saturday. Eastbound lanes remained closed and limited buses and trains were running Sunday although TriMet urged people to delay travel until conditions improve.

Some Washington state residents were also socked in by the weather, with snow falling throughout the Seattle region Saturday and freezing rain falling along the coast in Grays Harbor County. The city of Seattle activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the city’s winter storm response.

Another Pacific storm system was expected to bring snow to the mountains of the Northwest and the Intermountain West through Monday night.

The highest parts of the Cascades were expected to get snow measured in feet while over a foot of snow is likely in the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho, the Teton Range in Wyoming and the central Rockies, the National Weather Service said.