Oregon Electrical Utilities Warn of Power Outages to Prevent Wildfires, Including in Portland’s West Hills

National Weather Service warns east wind gusts could reach 50 miles per hour in the Cascades.

Fearing a repeat of the downed power lines that sparked catastrophic fires in the Cascades two years ago, Oregon’s two largest electrical utilities are preparing to turn off power lines across the state as high winds approach this weekend.

Portland General Electric says it will turn off the power grid in much of the Columbia River Gorge, in towns in the foothills of Mount Hood, and along the West Hills, both in Portland and in Washington County. In some locations, those outages will begin as early as 3 am Friday. But all locations will have the power shut off by no later than 11 am Friday.

PacifiCorp is preparing similar measures in eight counties, including along the stretch of Highway 22 in Santiam Canyon where the Beachie Creek Fire destroyed towns in 2020.

It was that fire, sparked by toppled power lines in a Labor Day windstorm, that consumed some of the most beloved woods in Oregon and revealed the risk presented by the electrical grid when high winds meet tinder-dry brush in wildfire season. In several high-profile lawsuits, people blamed PacifiCorp’s failure to turn off power as the reason for death and property destruction.

Related: Why don’t we put our electric lines underground?

A forecast of similar conditions on Friday has meteorologists describing the coming weekend as the most dangerous of Oregon’s fire season.

The National Weather Service’s Portland office predicts east winds, already gusty, will intensify tomorrow night. “Peak gusts around 50 mph Friday night and Saturday seem likely for the favored terrain along the Cascades with at least moderate potential for some of these winds to drop into the east/west aligned Cascade Valleys,” NWS meteorologist Jon Bonk writes. “It’s worth noting that this event looks at least somewhat less ominous than the Labor Day 2020 East Wind Event.”

Nonetheless, PGE is taking no chances. It has identified 10 locations in Northwest Oregon where it will shut off power. The utility says it could shut off power to as many as 30,000 customers this weekend.

“However, it’s possible that PGE could turn the power off in other locations, as well,” the utility warns. “Because these safety-related outages could last several hours or multiple days, it’s important that you have an emergency plan in place.”

The map of expected shut-offs is below. Want to know if it includes your house? Enter your address in this interactive map if you’re a PGE customer, and in this one if you get electricity from PacifiCorp, aka Pacific Power.

Possible outages, Sept. 9-10. (Portland General Electric)

Times when power outages will begin in each PGE zone:

  • Area 1: 3:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m.
  • Area 2: 5:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m.
  • Area 3: 8:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
  • Area 4: 3:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m.
  • Area 5: 5:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m.
  • Areas 6, 7, 8 and 9: 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
  • Area 10: 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

This post has been updated with new information, times and maps.

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