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'We're sending crews out, removing trees, opening roadways as best we can'

Roads impacted by December 2016 ice storm. (Photo courtesy Lane County)

EUGENE, Ore. -- Public works and cleanup crews are on the front lines of this Lane County ice storm, and the job is far from over.

It's 24/7 duty for local crews as they continue to roll on calls of downed trees and blocked streets.

There's no let up in sight.

Day two of the ice emergency dawned Thursday with streets and roads littered with fallen trees and limbs.

That equals more work for hard pressed county road crews.

“The bad piece is the parts that it hit were horrible,” said Lane County Road Maintenance Manager Orin Schumacher.

County managers said this storm is among the worst they've ever had to deal with.

“In the areas that got hit, it's the worst event I've seen since I've been here 11 years,” said Schumacher. “This ice storm has brought down more trees and caused more power and utility issues than I've seen in all that time. We're sending crews out, removing trees, opening roadways as best we can.”

At the City of Eugene's command center, dispatchers are busy at work.

As of midday Thursday, more than 300 downed trees littered the city.

“A lot of those trees have powerlines in them. It is impacting our ability to respond,” said Damon Joyner, Eugene Public Works Maintenance supervisor.

For that reason, he said the city is coordinating with EWEB crews in the field.

With the forecast getting colder, that will limit the pace of the ice melting.

“Because of the number of trees that have come down, this event is going to last,” Joyner said. “The cleanup is going to last for an extended period of time.”

Late Thursday morning, the City's public works declared an ice emergency. That means on-street parking on many of the priority routes is prohibited so that crews can quickly remove debris.

"During ice-snow emergencies, on street parking on priority transportation routes is banned," the City said in a press release. "The ban allows emergency vehicles and snow-removal equipment to travel safely on roadways to respond to emergency situations."

Ice accumulated on trees throughout the day Wednesday, causing many to come crashing down on homes, cars and power lines and across streets.

"This hazard is challenging because much of the debris is in the public right-of-way," the City said. "Public works crews need access to this space to better manage the debris and clear the road. Getting parked cars off the street is a vital part of this emergency declaration, allowing space for Public Works to respond safely."

With cold temperatures in the forecast, opportunities for the ice to melt will be limited. Eugene Public Works urges citizens to stay home, if possible, until conditions improve.

To learn more about the City's ice and snow response plan, visit www.eugene-or.gov/snow.

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