Crash sparks 12-hour blackout in Cottage Grove

Photo by James Crosby

May 05 - For 12 hours on Saturday, Cottage Grove residents served by Pacific Power were in the dark due to an accident on Interstate 5 that took down a transmission line serving South Lane County. Emerald People’s Utility District (EPUD) customers also were without power but for only several hours that afternoon. 

There were two crashes on the freeway around noon near the Saginaw interchange just north of Cottage Grove near mile post 176. The first crash hit a power pole on the south side of the intersection between the freeway and Delight Valley School Road, which also damaged lines on Sears Road.

A pickup driver swerved to avoid debris on the road on the I-5, entered a ditch, hitting the power pole and damaging 100 ft. of fence.  The driver was wearing his seatbelt and an airbag was deployed. Oregon State Police records noted no impairment and no injury to the driver.

According to a spokesperson with the Oregon Department of Transportation, the sparking line fell across the freeway, which was briefly closed in both directions as ODOT emergency response personnel waited for an electrical crew to cut the power and remove the downed line. 

South Lane Fire and Rescue dispatched an ambulance and engine to the first non-injury accident where the power line was down on the vehicle and the first responders had to wait for the line to be de-energized. 

SLF&R Division Chief Joe Raade said, “Soon after the first one, we responded to the second nearby accident that involved three vehicles. We had to extract an injured person and transport him to Riverbend Medical Center in Springfield. The two crashes backed up southbound traffic to the Gettings Creek Rest Area.” 

Pacific Power Spokesperson Brandon Zero said at 12:48 pm an outage cut power to 5,748 customers. Pacific Power customers were first told to expect restoration at 7:30 pm and then at 8:30 pm. Power was finally restored at midnight. 

“Several crews responded to the scene and began repairs,” Zero said. “Part of the delay in restoring power was that multiple utilities were controlling the line.” 

At press time, Oregon State Police and Emerald People’s Utility District spokespersons had not responded to the Sentinel’s inquires. The identity of the injured person and his condition was unknown at the time.