Pacific Power vs. tree into house

Tree limbs stretch through the power lines in this Northeast Portland home Sept. 11, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) —  As stormy weather tore through the Portland area Thursday night — causing lightning strikes and power outages — one Northeast Portland homeowner was left with unexpected clean-up she’s still trying to finish.

“I was woken up by the storm,” Judy recalled. The next morning, Judy saw a huge crack in the 100-foot red oak tree in front of her home on NE 16th Avenue.

So she called the city of Portland.

9-11-13-tree tied back
City of Portland crews tied back the limbs of this huge oak tree in front of Judy’s house after it was damaged in last week’s storm. (KOIN 6 News)

“We called in an emergency crew, pulled folks in,” said city of Portland Urban Forestry Supervisor Larry Maginnis. He said crews “actually removed a good portion of the tree,” relieving some of the weight.

Crews also tied the massive tree trunk together to stabilize it. But a 7,600-volt power line runs through the middle of its upper branches, and Judy said tree experts told her the whole tree is dangerous and needs to be cut down.

“I think to myself, ‘What would have happened if we had not noticed the crack and if the tree would have actually come down?'” she said. “It would have angled right into my kids’ bedroom, and you know — that’s a thought I don’t want to have.”

So Judy called Pacific Power. But, since the tree is “not directly involved with the line,” Pacific Power declined to help.

“We want to help work with everybody,” said Tom Gauntt with Pacific Power. “But it’s not necessarily a power-company direct issue.”

Judy filed a complaint against Pacific Power for its reluctance to take any responsibility.

“Ultimately, it’s been a challenging situation,” she told KOIN 6 News.

So, despite Judy’s fears that the tree could fall on her house, the entire burden of removing it falls on her. Estimates run into the thousands of dollars.

“Ultimately, it’s still going to require partnership with the power company,” Judy said. “And it’s still a debate as to whether it’s a primary line or not, and whether — and what — they’re going to do.”

That leaves her with a lingering question: “Ultimately,” she said, “whose responsibility it is?”

Pacific Power responded later Wednesday, saying it agrees to cut power in order to take the tree down. It reports it also will help Judy replace the tree once it’s gone. The tree in question, however, is still Judy’s responsibility.

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