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East County doesnt get the worst of storm

by: Tiffaney O'Dell, The soggy roots of a tree pulled out of the ground during the wind storm Thursday night, leaving this Honda squished on the side of Hood Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets in downtown Gresham. City crews removed the tree from the road early Friday morning.

Usually, East Multnomah County is hammered by the windy weather. But despite evidence to the contrary - fallen trees, downed power lines and closed roads - the Thursday, Dec. 14, storm took it pretty easy on the eastside.

Peak wind gusts of 114 mph hit Mt. Hebo outside Tillamook, with 106 mph winds reported in Newport, according to National Weather Service Forecaster Russ Willis.

High winds also slammed urban areas. Vancouver recorded winds of 79 mph, while Southeast Portland had gusts of 70.

Troutdale winds meanwhile measured just 47 mph.

Unlike East Winds that typically wallop East County, Thursday's storm consisted of south winds.

'In this case, pretty much everyone got it,' Willis said.

East County also experienced quite a temperature fluctuation between Thursday, Dec. 14, and Friday, Dec. 15.

Portland tied its record-high temperature of 60 degrees on Thursday, Dec. 14. Although it was even warmer in Troutdale - 61 degrees - Troutdale's record high for that date is 63 degrees.

Between 9 p.m. Thursday, and 10 a.m. Friday, Troutdale saw a temperature dip of 13 degrees, from 52 degrees to 39. It could have been even colder, but weather center computers lost power, Willis said.

By Friday afternoon, snow and hail briefly fell in Gresham thanks to what Willis called a strong cold front from the northern Gulf of Alaska.

Soil saturated from previous storms, plus November's record rainfall, caused some trees to topple over, root ball and all. Other trees snapped in two or leaned into power lines.

Strong winds ripped down trees, limbs and power poles, knocking out electricity to at least 16 Gresham intersections, according to John Harris, Gresham's transportation operations superintendent. In total, city and county crews used more than 200 flares to direct traffic.

By Friday morning, power had been restored to most of those intersections. The few exceptions included Southeast First Street and Kane, which opened later on Friday, as well as Southeast Kane Road/257th Drive between Northeast Division Street and Southeast Powell Valley Road.

That stretch of Kane reopened Friday evening, but motorists should still expect delays.

The signal mechanism and wiring at Kane and Powell Valley Road has been blown out beyond repair, said Laura Bridges-Shepard Gresham spokeswoman, adding that it will takes weeks to replace the signal. Until then, traffic barricades and stop signs will direct traffic.

'The entire thing's fried,' she said. '.… So Kane Road will be a four-way stop for a few weeks now.'

Downed trees and power lines closed Corbett's Louden Road to through traffic, but Portland General Electric Crews hope to open the road on Saturday, Dec. 16, said Mike Pullen, a Multnomah County spokesman.

At the storm's peak, nearly 245,000 PGE customers across seven counties in Northwest Oregon were without power - or about one third of all PGE customers, said Mark Fryburg, a PGE spokesman.

'When you look at the big blow of 1995, we had 46 percent - almost half - of our customers without power,' Fryburg said.

Within PGE's eastern region, which stretches from east Portland to Sandy and up Mount Hood, approximately 40,000 people lost power at some point Thursday or Friday, he said.

Locally, Boring and Sandy were hardest hit, as was Hogan Road in Gresham.

'We had a lot of areas of spotted hits,' Fryburg said. 'But considering the size of the storm, those are not big numbers.'

Overnight and throughout Friday, nearly 400 PGE employees worked to restore power in the hardest hit areas.

By 11 a.m. Friday, power had been restored to more than one third of the customers who lost power in the storm. That afternoon, approximately 6,000 Gresham customers were still without power, said Kregg Arntson, another PGE spokesman.

PGE expects it will take all weekend to restore power to everyone.

Reporter Erin Shea contributed to this story.