Storms rock region

<p>Tree limbs litter the ground at McNary along Highway 12, some of the aftermath of a severe storm Sunday.</p>

A thunderstorm and heavy winds tore through Hermiston Sunday evening, uprooting trees and knocking out electricity for about 10,000 people in the region. As of Monday night, 250 Umatilla Electric Company and Hermiston Energy Services customers were still without power.

The 50 mph winds first hit Butter Creek Valley at around 5:39 p.m. and then swept north through Hermiston and Pendleton. In addition to wind and rain, the storm brought hail and lightning. In the region, 50 power poles fell in total.

“It was an unusually powerful storm,” Umatilla Electric Company Member Services Administrator Steve Meyers said. “To have customers still out of power — that’s highly unusual.”

Power went out intermittently from Boardman to the Blue Mountains for customers of Hermiston Energy Services, which covers much of the Hermiston, and Umatilla Electric Company, which covers the region.

Meyers said the Butter Creek valley, south of Hermiston, took the heaviest beating, with 28 electrical poles falling in that area.

The Butter Creek power substation and its adjacent transmission poles are a central source of power along Highway 207, and many families were still without power as of Tuesday evening.

“That’s the place that got it the worst,” Meyers said.

Umatilla Electric teamed up with the Heppner-based Columbia Basin Cooperative and three contract crews from the Portland-Vancouver area to help restore power. As of Tuesday afternoon, crews remained at Highway 207, repairing the poles.

The storm left a large swath of damage, and no town in the region was completely unfazed. In Echo, a bolt of lightning struck a 53-year-old spruce on the Echo Hills Golf Course, splintering it. Then, the electricity ran through the ground and damaged the course’s irrigation pump.

Big River Golf Course in Umatilla was also hit hard by the storm.

“You can’t stop Mother Nature. You just have to go with it,” co-owner Ron Hosek said.

Hosek said every three or four years, a high-caliber storm inevitably hits the golf course.

This time, 18 trees fell to the ground and dozens were damaged.

The business was closed Monday and?Tuesday to allow people to clear the debris. A team of volunteers, comprising of neighbors, golf club members and three Hermiston RDO Equipment?Co. workers, came bearing rakes, shovels and trailers.

“We’ve had some fantastic support from the community,” Hosek said. “The best part is that you see the community pour their heart into this.”

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