PORTLAND, Ore. — Several Oregon school districts canceled Friday classes after utility companies announced they would shut off power to thousands of homes due to strong winds and wildfire danger.
The Sweet Home, Silver Falls, Santiam Canyon, Gaston and Corbett school districts announced there will be no school on Friday, Sept. 9. Portland Public Schools have closed Skyline and East Sylvan, both on the west side of Portland. On Thursday night, Oregon Trail School District in Clackamas County also announced it will be closed due to the power shutoffs.
Between Friday and Saturday, public safety power shutoffs by Pacific Power and Portland General Electric are expected to impact roughly 42,000 customers.
The utility companies said the power shutoffs are a safety measure to help prevent their equipment from sparking wildfires.
"School is important for us, but our kids and families and their safety is paramount," said Todd Miller, superintendent of the Santiam Canyon School District.
Miller said his community is still processing the devastation they went through two years ago when the Beachie Creek Fire devastated the area in September 2020. He said emotions are already running high for many residents.
“What is predicted weather-wise is nearly identical event of what happened two years ago,” said Miller. “So, it really has brought up a lot of emotions. You know, I think just in the past 24 hours I have seen tears. You can see it on people's faces — that they're preoccupied, they're worried, concerned."
Although the weather event may be similar to the one that led up to the Beachie Creek Fire, KGW chief meteorologist Matt Zaffino said winds won't be as strong or last as long.
"That said, the winds don’t have to be that strong to create extreme fire conditions, which we will have Friday into Saturday," Zaffino added.
Students just started their first week of classes this week in the Santiam Canyon School District.
“I don't like canceling school, especially the first week, but there are too many safety factors that play into this decision," said Miller in an email to parents. "First off, this event may be traumatizing for many who went through this two years ago and you want to hunker down with family. Also, the possibility of no power makes it difficult to see in dark classrooms and restrooms, prepare meals for students and most importantly, we can lose communication services which is a safety risk. Also, the high winds could pose safety risks for students needing to walk home or make roads unsafe for travel."
He said the district is working on rescheduling Friday night's football game.
"Tt's time again to Stand Together in the Canyon," he wrote. "Stay safe and please let us know if you have any questions or need anything.”