PGE says downtown offices closed until at least midday Tuesday

PGE says downtown offices closed until at least midday Tuesday »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. - Part of downtown Portland remained without power Monday night due to a major power line failing after it caught fire.

PGE crews are still working to restore power, and the utility's officials predict that the power won't be back on until at least midday Tuesday, saying the damage to underground vaults is extensive.

It is unknown was caused cables in those faults to fail and catch fire.

“We appreciate that this has been a significant inconvenience,” Portland General Electric spokesman Steve Corson said.

Corson said the outage began Sunday morning when a fire sparked in an underground cable vault beneath SW Fifth Avenue and SW Taylor Street. Flames from that fire also spread to several other major power cables, damaging them.

The power outage was originally more extensive, and witnesses could see smoke from the fire rising up through manhole covers nearby.

Nine blocks south of SW Alder Street on SW Fourth and Fifth Avenues remain in the dark. The outage area include City Hall, the Multnomah County Courthouse, and part of the Pioneer Place shopping center.

The Multnomah County Courthouse downtown at 1021 SW Fourth Avenue closed Monday and will be again closed Tuesday.

As a result, trials, hearings and other proceedings scheduled for Monday were canceled and will be rescheduled. Additionally, jurors scheduled to report for jury duty at the downtown courthouse Tuesday were instructed not show up.

Morgan Gilpin reported to the Multnomah County Courthouse before 8 a.m. Monday for jury duty only to be sent home. 

"It's just really cold this morning so this is kind of a bummer. Now I have to turn away and go back home," he told KATU News.

An employee of the Multnomah County district attorney's office told KATU News that only one judge worked Monday, and they're expecting a significant backlog of cases due to this closure.

According to Corson, the downtown power system is built to be redundant. In most power failures, power can be restored quickly. Only in rare situations is this much critical equipment damaged at once.

“Unfortunately this is one of the rare occasions,” he said.

As of 6 p.m. Sunday, PGE was able to restore power to some customers north of SW Alder Street between Fourth Avenue and Broadway.

The power outage forced many downtown businesses to close, including parts of Pioneer Place shopping center.

“We took our car downtown for service and thought oh we’ll kill a couple hours and go shopping,” Mica Waters said.  “I think we’ll have to change our plan and go eat lunch and spend our money there.”

Darbi and Brian Franssen say they drove in from Eugene to do all their Christmas shopping Monday and even chose a downtown hotel so they could shop. 

“We’ll probably have to go to Washington Square,” Brian Franssen said in response to the closures.

In addition to leaving approximately 100 businesses without power, the outage also affected traffic signals. The Portland Police Bureau released a statement asking commuters to treat downtown intersections where stoplights have stopped working as if they were four-way stops.

According to a TriMet spokeswoman, MAX trains on all four lines are able to run through the affected area. However, green and yellow lines must stop at every intersection between SW Jefferson and Burnside.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation reports the Portland Streetcar was not affected by the outage.