Wet weekend keeps city workers busy but injuries are avoided

by: JUDE GRAHAM - Giant Douglas fir trees crashed through the roof of the Oswego Heritage House Sunday night, allowing heavy rain to pour through.It was bad, but it could have been worse.

The tropical rainstorm Pabuk combined with a storm out of the Gulf of Alaska brought record September rainfall to Oregon this past weekend, and it raised a lot of havoc in Lake Oswego.

PGE spokesman Steve Corson said that 872 Lake Oswego homes lost their power over the two days.

The calls never stopped coming into Lake Oswego’s fire and police departments on Saturday and Sunday. Police officers were called to 42 incidents of trees falling on roadways and power lines, high water and blocked sewer drains, and one incident in which a fallen tree caved in a car. Officers often had to clear fallen trees from roads and pathways.

“It was a typical storm that happens every once in awhile,” said LOPD Capt. Dale Jorgensen. “We were busy. The only really bad thing was that mess on Highway 43.”

A potentially very serious situation happened Sunday at the juncture of Highway 43 and Laurel Street when the heavy rains caused a mudslide. Debris and muddy water forced down the netting on the sides of the highway. The road had to be closed off until the Oregon Department of Transportation could evaluate the situation.

The wet weather continued to a lesser degree on Monday and Tuesday.

At the Lake Oswego Fire Department, Fire Marshal Gert Zoutendijk needed a calculator to tabulate the calls that flowed in all weekend, some only a minute apart. Nineteen calls were made on Saturday. The storm really hit hard on Sunday night, causing firefighters to answer 15 calls in only four hours.

The fire department bent, but it didn’t break.

“It was very labor intensive,” Zoutendijk said. “A lot of trees fell into power lines, and we couldn’t just leave. We had to cut up the trees and get them out of the way. It was time consuming. But we didn’t need help from other departments.”

Regarding the mudslide on Highway 43 at Laurel Street, “The water really poured down that hill,” Zoutendijk said. “A BMW was crushed by a falling tree.”

The city of Lake Oswego Operations Division responded to more than 10 calls, all of them related to falling trees. Sometimes they fell on major roadways such as Boones Ferry Road, Kerr Parkway and Jefferson Parkway. City maintenance workers met the challenge.

“We came through it well,” said Dan Nicholson of the city’s public works department. “There was an abundance of incidents, but it was minor stuff.”

Perhaps the most severe storm damage happened at one of Lake Oswego’s most beautiful and historic landmarks, the Oswego Heritage House, on Sunday night. Two huge, historic Douglas fir trees that were planted at the house 100 years ago fell through the roof, causing huge holes that allowed rainwater to pour through. Little could be done to stem the damage for a while. The LOFD stopped the dripping around lights and put in buckets to catch the rain.

“Luckily, there was no renter using our building,” said Jude Graham, executive director of the Oswego Heritage Council, which supports preservation of historically significant buildings, sites and culture. “The rain leaked right through our meeting room. There were two dozen other branches that fell, and we lost a gutter.

“This year has been hard on this building. If you have a 100-year-old building, you have a lot of wear and tear, too.”

There was damage and danger caused by the storm, but for the most part Lake Oswego officials were counting their blessings.

“It was a good thing that the leaves weren’t down yet,” said David Donaldson, assistant city manager. “They would have caused real problems with our storm basins.”

The torrents of rain and howling winds caused thousands of customers to lose their electric power on Saturday and Sunday. A number of homes in the vicinity of the Lake Oswego Library were without power for about six hours Saturday afternoon into the early evening.

Portland General Electric issued a news release that said there was much power loss in Gresham, Canby and rural areas in Clackamas and Multnomah counties. As of Tuesday morning, Portland General Electric’s outage map reported around 25,000 were still without power in the Portland area.

Since the storm arrived on Friday, PGE was able to restore lost power to about 110,000 homes.

The National Weather Service reported that Pabuk contributed to a new record rainfall for September in the Portland area of 6.21 inches.

Steve Pierce, president of the Oregon chapter of the American Meteorological Society, said “simply amazing” rainfall totals poured through the region last weekend.

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