Newspapers spend a lot of time looking at things that went wrong. It is more difficult to assess which events could have been worse. But a look at the speed of the gusts of wind that swept through the Columbia River Gorge last weekend suggests that the state’s power utilities averted calamity by shutting down parts of the power grid.
Nearly 50,000 Oregonians were without power on September 9, and many of them didn’t see power restored until two days later. The reason? A forecast of an easterly wind event that could rival the 2020 Labor Day windstorm.
This event was a disaster: it toppled transformers and snapped power lines belonging to PacifiCorp, sparking the Beachie Creek Fire that destroyed much of Detroit, Oregon. the wind has come.
As of the press deadline, PGE could not say how many utility poles were found toppled as crews worked to restore power after the outages. This is the key figure for measuring the degree of danger averted by shutting down electricity across the state.
“As we patrolled and inspected 1,800 miles of line and equipment, we saw damage from wind gusts that exceeded 40 and 50 miles per hour in some areas,” the PGE spokesperson said, John Farmer. “With an effort of this size, we are still evaluating information, and it’s only early in this process, even as we hear confirmation from some critical service providers that we made the right call.”
For now, we’ll have to settle for wind speeds measured by the National Weather Service in or near areas where PGE has died out. They show dangerously high gusts, in some cases rivaling the winds of 2020.
Best gusts of wind measured from September 9 to 10 (source: National Weather Service)