About half of the US population is under winter weather advisories and millions of customers have lost power as freezing temperatures grip the country

Ice and snow in Salem, Oregon
Ice and snow in Salem, Oregon KATU

A storm sweeping the Pacific Northwest produced heavy snow, ice accumulation and freezing rain over the weekend and left hundreds of thousands of people in Oregon and Washington without power as of Monday.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency Saturday in nine counties due to the severe winter weather that resulted in heavy snow and ice accumulation, high winds, critical transportation failures, and loss of power and communications capabilities.

“Severe wind and ice conditions caused extensive damage to the electric system, with utilities reporting thousands of downed power lines, as well as damage to transmission lines and substations,” Brown said in a statement issued on Sunday.

As such, over 320,000 power outages were reported across Oregon with Portland General Electric reporting the majority of power outages, affecting 280,000 customers as of Monday at noon and Pacific Power reporting the second highest number of outages with 40,000 affected customers. “A series of historic storms has hit our communities, bringing three waves of snow, ice and wind,” Portland General Electric said addressing the winter weather event. “As each storm rolls in, more ice builds up on trees and power lines, that causes more and more trees and power lines to fall…as we repair one area, another area is impacted, and more repairs have to happen.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced an emergency due to the hazardous weather, closing government offices at noon on Monday and Multnomah County officials kept severe weather shelters open at the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland and Metro Garage for residents needing a safe and warm place to stay through the storm.

The National Weather Service announced ice storm warnings in both Portland and Seattle over the weekend and departments of transportation for each city issued travel advisories cautioning residents to stay indoors if possible. Widespread rain in Seattle early Monday morning brought with it some pockets of snow and freezing rain in valleys near the Cascades, the National Weather Service tweeted on Monday.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said parts of the Emerald City received a nearly a foot of snow on Saturday as the city broke a record for snowiest day in decades with 8.9 inches of snow falling at Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport (where official snowfall records are kept) on Saturday Feb. 13, according to CNN affiliate KOMO.

 

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