By Ted Case

Battle-tested Lane Electric crews—the same that faced last year’s devastating Labor Day fires—helped restore power to Salem Electric members. Photo by Ron Cooper

Oregon electric co-ops rallied as February storms devastated areas served by Consumers Power Inc., Salem Electric, and West Oregon Electric Cooperative.

It was a Valentine’s Day weekend most would rather forget. After a relatively mild winter, Mother Nature unleashed a storm that pummeled the Portland metro area and the upper Willamette Valley.

Oregon’s electric co-ops saw significant outages caused by downed power lines in severe icy conditions. Almost immediately, neighboring co-ops—some from nearly 400 miles away—came to assist.

Salem Electric, which had approximately 8,500 members without power at one point, was aided by crews from Central Electric, Blachly-Lane, Lane Electric, and Central Lincoln PUD.

“There is no way we could have accomplished our restoration without their great help,” said Tony Schacher, Salem Electric manager. “It took grit, determination, and persistence.”

Central Electric crews, based in Redmond, responded quickly to the call to help Salem Electric. Photo courtesy of Salem Electric

Similar accolades came from CPI CEO Roman Gillen, whose co-op had approximately 6,900 members without power. CPI initially received assistance from Coos-Curry, Hood River, and Oregon Trail electric cooperatives, along with Emerald PUD. CPI also received assistance from co-ops that finished their work in Salem.

According to Gillen, CPI’s vast territory had multiple areas with 10 to 20 broken poles. Because of the extreme number of trees and limbs on the ground, access was often limited.

“It is going to be slow and difficult progress,” Gillen said in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

One week after the storm hammered CPI’s service territory, power was restored to all CPI members.

West Oregon Electric Co-op crews worked around the clock to restore power to the small, heavily forested communities in Clatsop and Columbia counties. Four days after the storm, crews had restored electricity to all members.

“We are winning,” said Don Rose, West Oregon’s operations manager.