Downtown Portland residents, workers look for alternatives during massive power outage

Underground vault fire damage courtesy Pacific Power

The Meals on Wheels dining room at SW Main and 11th Avenue is closed due to a power outage that spans blocks in the heart of Portland.

It’s one of the hottest days of the year so far, and the staff is working to save the food they have that’s normally served to about 100 seniors every day.

Moira McHale is the program manager at this location.

“All of our frozen food is still frozen at this point,” she said. “We have a truck coming, and we’re shipping all of that to our main office so we shouldn’t have much food loss at this point.”

They’re also working to preserve the frozen meals they have that will go out to home bound seniors in the community through the holiday weekend.

“Instead of the normal two meals, they’ll be getting three, and so we have over half those meals here. So we’re talking 4 or 500 meals which is why we’re keeping everything closed and frozen until our refrigeration truck comes," she said.

This location should be open again on Wednesday, but in the meantime, seniors who normally eat there can go to one of three other locations nearby.

Belmont - 4610 SE Belmont - 503-953-8202

Marshall Union Manor - 5325 NW Northrup - 503-593-3068

Thelma Skelton - 3925 SE Milwaukie - 503-953-8209

Pacific Power is working on restoring power to the area that runs from West Burnside to Southwest Jefferson, and I-405 to Park Avenue. It was caused by a fire in an underground electrical vault. Crews were working through the night going through each area, checking for more damage.

Most traffic lights in the area were out and treated like four way stops by drivers. MAX and Streetcar lines were also affected because signals that were out. Additionally, elevators and key cards for many apartments and office buildings were also out. The Sentinel Hotel moved some guests to other local hotel properties in their ownership group and Jake’s Famous Crawfish and other restaurants were also dealing with the outage.

One of the buildings affected is the St. Francis, a low income apartment building with seniors, handicapped and low income residents. They’re frustrated because with the elevators out, some can’t get down the stairs. Others are trapped because the building garage door can’t open. Michael Harris is off of work today, but sympathetic to that problem.

“People have to go to work, and their commute is farther away, so they have a car. Like this gentleman’s car here. He couldn’t get into the garage last night because the garage is locked,” he says. He helped someone navigate the dark hallway. “It’s dark in the hallways, there’s no light,” he said. “So I escorted the guy with my security flashlight.” Other neighbors have been offering people candles and even ice to help preserve their food.

Harris has an idea to escape his hot apartment later in the day though.

“You know there’s Salmon Springs down there. I might jump right in there," Harris said.

Pacific Power says crew are being methodical and making sure there’s no other damage before they turn the power back on. They’re expecting full restoration by 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 23.

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