The Douglas County Board of Commissioners declared a local state of emergency at its meeting Wednesday morning in response to a series of snowstorms this week.

Some residents in outlying areas remain trapped at home — while others cannot return home — as rural roads are blocked by downed trees and snow. Thousands of people were still without power Wednesday, days after snow downed power lines and toppled utility poles that caused a system-wide outage.

Outages have decreased from their peak of more than 31,000 on Monday but, as of Thursday morning, more than 10,000 Pacific Power customers in Douglas County and more than 7,000 Douglas Electric Cooperative customers in the Roseburg area are still without power.

In response to the crisis, the board unanimously voted to declare the entire county in a state of emergency. The order will allow the county to waive normal contract bid requirements, expediting the allocation of county funds to contractors assisting with clearing roads and repairing power infrastructure.

Lane County declared a local state of emergency Tuesday and Coos County declared one Wednesday following similar storm impacts.

Hazardous conditions are expected to continue for several days, the order said. Some people will continue to be without power for at least a week, according to Douglas Electric.

The order directs all county departments to take necessary steps to secure the safety of residents and their property.

“Conditions present a clear and present danger to the health and safety of the citizens and visitors of Douglas County,” the order reads. “The initial assessment of infrastructure damages is widespread and the county needs flexibility in managing resources under the existing emergency conditions.”

Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman said Wednesday county officials have set up a command center and continue working to address the emergency.

“We’ve been engaged since Sunday afternoon, but we’re still assessing where we can get help, what roads are open, where we need to focus efforts for medical emergency services,” Freeman said. “We’re working very hard to keep the radio tower system working so we can have communications. That’s been a challenge, of course — every road up to the top of those mountains has trees covering it.”

Wayne Stinson, Douglas County emergency manager, forwarded the order to Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday for review. Brown may declare a county disaster to augment local resources, according to the order.

Todd Munsey, a spokesman for Douglas Electric, said Wednesday issues with road access were hampering efforts to repair local distribution power lines. Downed large transmission lines from Bonneville Power Administration and Pacific Power, which feed local substations, have prevented power from being restored to residents in rural areas.

The remaining outages are concentrated in areas of North County, including Oakland, Drain and Elkton, as well as areas west and south of Roseburg, including Lookingglass and Green.

Early Thursday morning, Bonneville Power energized the substation in Drain. Additionally, Pacific Power energized the Lookingglass substation. People in those areas will begin to see their power restored as Douglas Electric crews repair local distribution and service lines.

“Douglas County has done a great job of clearing and opening roads, increasing accessibility for our crews,” Munsey said Thursday. “At this point, we have almost twice as many contract employees as we do regular Douglas Electric employees working this outage.”

Pacific Power said it will have more than 200 crews working to restore power by midday Thursday.

Munsey said feeding and housing crews, who are working around the clock, remains a challenge as the power issues they’re working on persist.

He said crews are taking advantage of Thursday’s favorable weather, but timelines for power restoration remain the same.

“For some it will be hours, others will take days, and for members in the more remote areas, it could take at least a week,” Munsey said Wednesday.

While the Douglas County Emergency Management division continues to respond to calls for assistance, which Sgt. Brad O’Dell, spokesman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, called “overwhelming” on Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Office continues to ask residents to help their neighbors, especially those who are elderly or disabled.

Several shelters and warming centers, including those in Roseburg, Winston, Yoncalla and Sutherlin, opened this week.

The Winston-Dillard School District and the South Umpqua School District continue to offer free emergency meals to kids 18-years-old and younger. McGovern Elementary School will be open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday to provide emergency meals.

In Roseburg, there’s a chance of snow until 3 p.m. Thursday and a chance of rain through the morning Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

Clear skies are in the forecast for the weekend.

Read the full emergency declaration online at nrtoday.com.

Max Egener can be reached at megener@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4217. Or follow him on Twitter @maxegener.

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City Reporter

Max Egener is the city reporter for The News-Review. He has a master's degree from the University of Oregon, and is an avid skier and backpacker.

(2) comments

PassionInPolitics

In my opinion, a declaration of emergency needed to happen, but no other business or decisions should have been voted on in this public meeting. This public meeting at 9AM Wednesday Morning, wasn't accessible to the majority of the public.....They ok'd thousands of dollars in this public meeting where the public was inaccessible. ...

S

Good to know they finally showed up; however, the declaration mostly gives them the thumbs up to hire their pals instead of going through normal procedures.

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