PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On the tail end of a record-setting heat wave in Portland, a section of a massive tree has Eastmoreland neighbors pointing towards climate change as the culprit.
The tree branches destroyed a power pole and took down power lines, sending sparks on the street around 11:30 p.m. Sunday. Nearly all of the Eastmoreland neighborhood went the better part of 15 hours without power.
Portland General Electric reports most power was returned around 2:30 p.m.
“These are big trees and it’s a big cost to homeowners to fix them up,” said Tren Haselton, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years.
A branch that makes up one-third of the tree snapped off. Haselton spotted it around 7 a.m. Monday and took a picture.
He and several other neighbors said it was well over 100 years old, first planted when the neighborhood was plotted in the early 1900’s.
To ensure the health of the tree canopy in Eastmoreland, the Neighborhood Association also has a tree committee to survey every single tree in the neighborhood for its size, age, and any noticeable health issues.
Robert McCullough is on the committee with two retired U.S Forest Service employees. He is confident in the Committee’s expertise and said the tree, a Linden tree that can live well past 100, was not noted for any issues and was “well taken care of.”
“The more environmental stress you put on the exterior of the tree, you’re going to have impacts, water supply is going to have issues as well. We’re going to have dry and very hot summers. This is a different world than the tree planned on,” McCullough told KOIN 6 News.
The lack of sickness led McCullough to posit a warming climate and the record heat wave are at fault.
“This is very much what we are going to see in the years to come,” he said.
PGE had crews working to restore power throughout Monday. A tree trimming company as well as Portland Parks and Recreation were also on hand.
PGE spends $30 million to maintain around 2 million trees that are near its 12,000 miles of power lines.
“We know that Oregonians love their trees and limbs can be one of the largest causes of outages in our service area,” PGE Spokesperson Andrea Platt said.
A tree caused a power outage in the same neighborhood during the 2021 ice storm. Platt said surveys of trees, on the same criteria of size, age, and visible health, every two or three years. Those surveys are more frequent in wildfire-prone areas.
“We are taking all the steps we can to maintain the trees in our service area with thought to the tree health and also to the safety of our power lines,” Platt said.
Portland Parks & Recreation said there were five tree-related emergencies it responded to on Monday. KOIN 6 News has been following the bureau’s efforts to conduct proactive tree maintenance, but because the tree was on private land, it’s up to the homeowner to take care of it.
With the costs reaching several thousand dollars to mitigate the large, older trees, that frustrates Haselton.
“A lot of cities take care of that as part of their tax structure in the city.” He said.