REEDSPORT/ELKTON — After uncommon winter storms ravaged the South Coast last year, leaving communities without power for days, the Oregon Department of Transportation and United States Forest Service have taken steps to avoid a second year of damage in the area.
Trevor Cooley fills his vehicle with gas after filling fuel cans for a generator in Elkton. A Feb. 24 storm left 30,000 homes without power an…
Gary Warner, public information officer for ODOT, said they've been working to clean up around the highways, this year, and make the area safer. ODOT hired contractors to remove 1,116 trees along Oregon Highway 38 and Highway 138 that were in danger of falling on the road during a storm. Warner added that this total does not include trees that were removed immediately after the storms.
ODOT has also worked with area utility companies to improve communication during an emergency as well as upgrading ODOT facilities to run on generators for longer. Warner said the improved communication would allow the agencies to clear debris and restore power in less time during an outage.
The Forest Service has also been working. Dan Matthews, Recreation Staff Officer for the Central Coast Ranger District, said the USFS does annual inspections of developed recreation sites. They have crews that cut and remove any trees that could endanger campgrounds, picnic areas, staging areas, boat ramps and trail heads.
"The Forest Service also removes any trees that become damaged throughout the year and that, if they fall, would likely damage people or property," said Matthews.
Power poles and lines lay beneath fallen trees along U.S. Highway 38 south of Elkton. A Feb. 24 storm brought heavy, wet snow and wind that do…
Heavy rain and snow storms came through the area in late February 2019, hitting the communities hard and leaving thousands without power. Elkton was hit especially hard, facing blocked roads alongside power outages for weeks. Warner recalled that Reedsport was the only city in the area where state facilities were able to open for two days after the initial storms passed. The storm also closed every state and federal highway in the area except State Highway 42 and U.S. Highway 101.
"It's likely one of the top two biggest snow events of the past 100 years, based on records in Medford," said Warner.
He added ODOT crew members were among the residents who were hit by the 2019 storm. He said many workers were snowed in and without power for 30 hours along Highways 38 and 138. They were quick to respond, though, and jumped to work to help others quickly.
"After they secured their families, they went to work, joining those already on duty at the time of the storm," he said.