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4 die from carbon monoxide poisoning during winter storm

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 16, 2021

Associated Press

Associated Press

PORTLAND – Tens of thousands of people remained without power Tuesday in the Portland, Oregon, area as crews raced to restore electricity after an icy weekend winter storm. Authorities said four people had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Portland General Electric’s map of power outages listed about 200,000 customers without electricity, while Pacific Power listed about 14,000 in Salem and the Portland area. More than 5,000 power lines in the area had been downed by ice, snow and falling trees.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed four deaths over the weekend due to carbon monoxide poisoning. While authorities didn’t immediately provide any details about the deaths, they did urge people not to use alternative heat sources like camp stoves or barbecues to stay warm.

Sgt. Marcus Mendoza, an agency spokesman, would not confirm the identities of the four people, where they lived or whether they were exposed to the gas at one location.

He did tell the Oregonian/OregonLive that the four deaths were unrelated to a carbon monoxide poisoning incident that sickened six people Monday in Gladstone, southeast of Portland. Four people were taken to a hospital while two others were treated at the scene.

A weekend weather system brought heavy snow across the Pacific Northwest, with Seattle seeing more than a foot of snow Saturday through Monday. But it was northwest Oregon that saw the most severe effects as ice and snow downed trees, collapsed roofs and made driving dangerous.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency for the greater Portland region and more than 2,500 workers were in the field trying to restore electricity. Portland General Electric said it had turned the lights back on for about 300,000 customers but sporadic outages kept occurring.

“Our crews are really in an ongoing repair situation and it’s going to take some time go get everybody back on,” PGE spokesman Steve Corson told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “It’s still going to take a long time, so we could have people who are out for many days yet.”

More than 200 miles of transmission lines need repairs, Corson said, and PGE is prioritizing those fixes, even as it works on repairing downed lines elsewhere.

The school district in Portland canceled online classes for Tuesday because so many people lacked internet access. Comcast said 125,000 customers in Oregon and southwest Washington were without internet service Tuesday morning, the “vast majority” because they don’t have electricity.

Flooding was also a concern in western Washington as milder Pacific air arrived, with snow melting and storm drains clogged.

While seasonal temperatures had returned to the Puget Sound area, the Cascade Mountains were seeing blizzard conditions. Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass, the main east-west route across the state, was closed Tuesday. In the last two days 36 inches of snow fell and forecasters said more was expected.

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