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Winter storms in Oregon have cut power for thousands and killed several

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Oregon and southwest Washington are digging out from one of the worst ice and windstorms locals have seen in 30 years. Officials have confirmed at least 11 weather-related deaths, and as Kristian Foden-Vencil of Oregon Public Broadcasting reports, more are expected.

KRISTIAN FODEN-VENCIL, BYLINE: The stories are heartbreaking. A Portland woman died after a tree fell on an RV. Three people with her escaped, but she was trapped inside by branches. They'd had the stove on to keep warm and the open flames started a fire in the vehicle. Emergency staff tried to get her out but were hampered by downed power lines. And they couldn't use the nearest fire hydrant because it was frozen solid. Another man died in the leafy suburb of Lake Oswego, says Fire Marshal Gert Zoutendijk.

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GERT ZOUTENDIJK: We unfortunately had a tree that fell and hit a house, and an elderly man that was sleeping on the second floor was crushed by the tree.

FODEN-VENCIL: Another man in Redmond, Ore., was trying to stop his car from sliding when he got pinned against some rocks. He was there so long he died from suspected hypothermia. Zoutendijk says more than 130 trees blew down just in his town alone.

ZOUTENDIJK: In my 25-year career here with Lake Oswego, I have never seen such devastation.

FODEN-VENCIL: Electricity was out to 125,000 customers at the peak of the storm Sunday, but crews have been working feverishly to restore power ever since. Their work's being hampered by an ice storm that moved through the area last night. Pampi Chowdhury is with Pacific Power.

PAMPI CHOWDHURY: That becomes challenging when there's heavy ice and snow accumulation, and icy conditions add up and make it even more worse.

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FODEN-VENCIL: Water is pouring off the deck of Kera Pollick's home in south Portland. The mother of four thinks she has a burst pipe.

KERA POLLICK: I woke up, and I heard kind of a loud noise in my closet.

FODEN-VENCIL: She's a renter, so she's going to call her landlord. Meanwhile, it's been a long few days.

POLLICK: We've all felt like it was a little bit like COVID, and we're stuck inside our homes at this point.

FODEN-VENCIL: Medical examiners in several Oregon counties have reported a number of suspected hypothermia deaths, but the final toll will take time as investigators have to consider other possible causes in each case.

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For NPR News, I'm Kristian Foden-Vencil in Portland.

(SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD, GHOSTFACE KILLAH AND TREE SONG, "STREET KNOWLEDGE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Kristian Foden-Vencil
Kristian Foden-Vencil is a veteran journalist/producer working for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He started as a cub reporter for newspapers in London, England in 1988. Then in 1991 he moved to Oregon and started freelancing. His work has appeared in publications as varied as The Oregonian, the BBC, the Salem Statesman Journal, Willamette Week, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, NPR and the Voice of America. Kristian has won awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists and the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. He was embedded with the Oregon National Guard in Iraq in 2004 and now specializes in business, law, health and politics.
Gurjit Kaur
Gurjit Kaur is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered. A pop culture nerd, her work primarily focuses on television, film and music.