Willamette Valley News, Thursday 1/6 – Eugene House Fire, Death Investigation After Body Found Along Railroad Tracks In Eugene

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Willamette Valley Weather

Flood Watch in effect from January 6, 04:00 AM PST until January 7, 06:00 PM PST

Today– Rain, mainly before 10am. High near 54. South wind 9 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%.

Friday– Rain. Snow level 4100 feet lowering to 2700 feet in the afternoon . Temperature falling to around 42 by 5pm. Breezy, with a west southwest wind 15 to 20 mph decreasing to 9 to 14 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Saturday– Partly sunny, with a high near 48. Calm wind.

Sunday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 48.

Monday– A chance of showers, mainly after 10am. Partly sunny, with a high near 49.

More winter weather means Oregon travelers need more caution Thursday – Flood alerts are in effect as heavy rain totals and potential snowmelt appear on Thursday in Oregon and southwest Washington.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell when one weather system ends and another begins. Rain to snow to fog to ice to high winds to maybe a teasing hint of sun and back to rain again.

Oregon has been like that this week with lots of everything everywhere all the time. Even for Oregon it feels like it won’t stop. And we’re in for more Thursday with more snow in the upper elevations, more rain in the lowlands and both in the Columbia River Gorge.

And we pay the price on the roads. Conditions remain unsettled across much of Oregon, including the mountain passes, and travelers need to use caution everywhere and go to Tripcheck.com to check their route in advance. And remember that some of those Tripcheck.com cameras include temperature and altitude information that help you better understand your route.

In Eastern Oregon, OR 334 remains closed Thursday by heavily drifting snow. Interstate 84 re-opened completely in Eastern Oregon Wednesday after weather-related closures. A slide briefly closed the Historic Columbia River Highway, U.S. 30, early Thursday between Vista House and Larch Mountain Road. 

With all this rain travelers need to be prepared for delays caused by high water, rising rivers, downed trees or slides. Consider packing a bag with supplies like water, food, a charged phone and other necessities that might be needed in a lengthy closure.  

For local flood advisories and sandbag locations, call 211.

And if you’re out on the roads, look out for the crews who have been working so hard everywhere in recent days to keep the roads safe and clear. Give crews a wide berth so they can get the job done.  ODOT: Trip Check

Eugene House Fire on Jefferson Street

 Firefighters extinguished a fire at a home in the 800 block of Jefferson Street in Eugene Wednesday.

One of the four residents who rents a space inside of the home had to be rescued from the second story balcony. No injuries were reported in the incident.

The fire started in one of the bedrooms, and cause is still under investigation, officials added. It took over a dozen fire personnel to put the fire out.

The section of Jefferson Street starting at West 7th was closed for a period of time. It has since been reopened

Police Investigating Death After Body Found Along Railroad Tracks In Eugene Early Thursday Morning

Police are conducting a death investigation after a person was found dead along the railroad tracks near a homeless camp early Thursday morning.

Authorities have not released the person’s identity. Officers and firefighters responded at 3:41 a.m. to a report a deceased person along the tracks near North Polk and Railroad Avenue.

Person Hospitalized After Being Pulled From Truck in Willamette River

Police say one person was hospitalized after they were found in a partially-submerged truck in the Willamette River.

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office says the vehicle was under the Jasper Bridge, with water up to the door handles.

One person was found unconscious inside and hospitalized. Their current condition is unknown, and LCSO says it’s unclear how or why the vehicle ended up in the river.

As of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the occupant was still in the hospital, according to LCSO. The vehicle was removed from the water early Wednesday evening.

Oregon reports 6,203 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 9 new deaths

PORTLAND, Ore. — There are nine new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,719, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported at 12:01 a.m. today.

OHA reported 6,203 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 441,648.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (17), Benton (214), Clackamas (594), Clatsop (46), Columbia (49), Coos (136), Crook (37), Curry (5), Deschutes (716), Douglas (93), Gilliam (1), Grant (26), Hood River (37), Jackson (264), Jefferson (77), Josephine (89), Klamath (24), Lake (2), Lane (518), Lincoln (52), Linn (206), Malheur (14), Marion (395), Morrow (29), Multnomah (1268), Polk (94), Tillamook (29), Umatilla (218), Union (10), Wallowa (9), Wasco (23), Washington (874), Wheeler (3) and Yamhill (34).

Oregon again smashes single-day record with 6,203 new COVID cases

Oregon receives 1 million COVID-19 tests as testing numbers soar

COVID-19 testing is in high demand and OHA is recording a high volume of tests being performed. The number of COVID-19 tests reported Jan. 4, 2022 at 34,728 is the sixth highest single daily count reported statewide during the pandemic.

This week, the OHA warehouse will receive nearly 1.1 million test kits. Beginning Monday, Jan. 10, the warehouse will receive five trucks per week — for five consecutive weeks — until the order is fulfilled. Since iHealth Labs is planning to ramp up product of the test kits, Oregon’s order may be fulfilled ahead of schedule.

Click here for video of the COVID-19 tests arriving at the OHA warehouse this week in Wilsonville, OR. The kits will be disseminated to numerous OHA partner agencies and organizations. OHA does not have the capacity to individually send out tests, so it will prioritize distribution to the following partners that can disseminate them to their communities as they see fit:

  • Local public health authorities and Tribes based on population size and some health equity metrics.
  • Migrant and seasonal farm and agriculture workers.
  • Head Start and some other high-risk early learning settings.
  • K-12 schools to support at-home test to stay.
  • Health care workers.
  • Shelters.
  • Community-based organizations.

The test kit order comes as Omicron continues its steady overtake of Delta as the state’s dominant COVID-19 variant. With its high transmissibility, Omicron is already thought to be driving a steady increase in hospitalizations over recent days. Any scarcity of tests is a function of disease in the community and not a lack of supply.

As the number of cases increase, rapid testing will be critical to efforts to encourage people to take steps that reduce transmission, including isolating and quarantining at home, wearing masks and face coverings, keeping their distance from others and getting vaccinated as soon as they’re healthy.

Following COVID-19 spread throughout Oregon, Portland Public Schools announced on Tuesday night that mitigation strategies from the spring of 2021 will be returning to extracurricular activities until at least Feb. 4.

The changes come following new recommendations from Oregon health officials on Monday, asking that schools either implement new safeguards to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon, or put a pause on extracurriculars altogether.

The new protocols will be going in to effect immediately, and include: Students and performers must wear a mask at all times, including during competitions and performances, Limited access to locker rooms, No overnight travel for competitions or performances, No concession stands available at events and Spectators age 5 and up must show a proof of vaccination or show a negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours. So far, no other districts in the state
have followed the PPS mandate.

Severe winter weather impacts continue: Office of Emergency Management implores Oregonians to stay home and stay safe

A complex winter weather system is delivering heavy snowfall, ice and high winds to parts of the state and heavy rain and melting snow to others. The Office of Emergency Management is imploring Oregonians to avoid traveling on treacherous roads and instead stay home to stay safe and help ease the strain on the statewide response system.

“We have severe weather advisories, watches and warnings all over the state, including threats of flooding caused by heavy rain and snowmelt. This can trigger debris flows and landslides in steep terrain, and the risk is higher in wildfire burn scars,” said OEM Director Andrew Phelps. “We need to take winter weather hazards seriously and make good decisions to reduce our risk of being stuck on snow-covered roads or trapped by floodwaters. If you don’t need to be on the road, stay home: Do your part to keep yourself and others safe.” 

OEM is monitoring and coordinating statewide hazards, impacts and needs and informing Oregonians of tools and resources to stay safe. Oregon Dept. of Transportation crews are working to keep roads clear and urging travelers to observe highway closures, give crews space to work and never drive around barricades or pass snowplows on the right. 

Impacted counties are establishing sandbag locations for flooding. For local flood advisories and sandbag locations, call 211.

OEM is asking all Oregonians to do their part to reduce shared risk by adopting the following safety best practices:

Stay informed. Be Ready.

Be aware.

  • Stay alert for road hazards such as flooding, downed power lines, falling trees and washed-out roads.
  • Do not walk, swim or drive through floodwaters; just six inches of moving water can knock a person down, and one foot of moving water can sweep away a vehicle. Learn how to prepare for and what to do during a flood at https:/ready.gov/floods.

Avoid unnecessary travel. If travel is necessary:

  • Check weather and road conditions in advance at https://tripcheck.com/ or call 511. Be patient and allow for extra travel time.
  • Share travel plans with others and know the route; GPS won’t always have the latest road conditions and if the main roads are in bad shape, the back roads are likely worse.
  • Pack chains, a cell phone and charger, water, food and warm clothes.
  • When stuck in dangerous winter conditions, remain in the vehicle to stay warm and make it easier to be located by rescuers. Leave the vehicle running for about 10 minutes each hour for heat. Open a window a bit for fresh air and clear snow from the exhaust pipe to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. 
  • Review more winter weather travel tips from ODOT at https://oregon.gov/odot/pages/winter-driving.aspx.

Prepare for power outages.

  • Find area power outages at https://poweroutage.us/area/state/oregon.
  • Have a flashlight, extra batteries, non-perishable food, and blankets available and ready to go.
  • Make sure phones and other electronics are fully charged. 
  • Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning: Don’t use camp stoves indoors and place generators outside at least 20 feet away from the home.
  • View more resources at https://ready.gov/power-outages.

Assemble a go-kit.

  • A go-kit is a self-contained and portable stockpile of emergency supplies, often placed in a backpack and left in a readily accessible and secure location. Read what to include in a go-kit at https://ready.gov/kit.
  • Make sure the go-kit contains waterproof matches or a lighter and a watertight container for important documents.

Be self-sufficient.

  • First responders may not be able to reach everyone impacted within hours or even days after a disaster. Each Oregon resident should proactively prepare to be self-sufficient for at least two weeks when a disaster strikes. 
  • Being “2 Weeks Ready” means having a plan and enough supplies for a household to survive on its own for a full two weeks should a disaster occur. Learn more at https://www.oregon.gov/oem/hazardsprep/Pages/2-Weeks-Ready.aspx.

“As Oregonians, we have a shared responsibility to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe,” said Phelps. “Everyone should take steps now to stay warm, dry and safe throughout this series of storms. Connect with friends, family or neighbors and help them access the resources they need. We’re counting on every Oregonian to reduce their risk and be part of the solution.”  Oregon Office of Emergency Management 

Flood Risks From Storms Affecting Travel And Truckers Along I-5

As storms continue dumping snow in the high elevations of the Cascades, wet weather could be an issue for truckers in the valleys.

A few more rounds of heavy rain will hit the lowlands and coastal areas of western Washington and Oregon over the next two days, fading later Friday. This will impact travel and could cause delays from the Interstate 5 corridor west to the U.S. Highway 101 corridor, including the Seattle and Portland freight markets.

Rain totals through Friday may reach 3 to 6 inches and the National Weather Service has issued flood watches from Eugene, Oregon, to Bellingham, Washington, near the U.S.-Canada border.

Many of these areas have already been drenched by heavy rain this week, totaling 2 to 3-plus inches in some cases. Portland had a daily record of 1.15 inches Wednesday. Parts of the region even experienced major flooding last month. More rain will only increase the odds of flooding.

The heavy rain will also increase snow melt in lower slopes, leading to excessive runoff that may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams in low-lying and flood-prone locations. High water across roads could lead to closures.

Another potential threat from the rain and runoff is landslides, which may also make some roads impassable.

Even after the storms fade and exit the region late Friday afternoon or evening, any flooding that does occur could last into Saturday, which is when the flood watches are set to expire. However, the watches may be extended into Sunday if flooding becomes worse than expected.

More drivers may be heading into these areas to pick up freight. The latest FreightWaves Outbound Tender Volume Index Weekly Change (OVTIW) shows increasing values. This means that shippers in these markets have been offering more and more loads to carriers over the past seven days, so carriers may send their drivers there to grab those loads.

Winds will pack a wallop, too, gusting at 60 to 70 mph along the coast and in foothills of the coastal mountain ranges.

Oregon Prison System Reports a Dozen Deaths in Two Months

“None of these individuals were COVID positive at the time of death,” says DOC spokeswoman Betty Bernt.

The Oregon Department of Corrections announced Dec. 30 the death of 67-year-old Robert Lee Shaft, the 12th inmate to die in DOC custody in the last two months of 2021. Shaft, who was in custody at Snake River Correctional Institution near Ontario, died in hospice care, according to DOC.

The other 11 deaths occurred at three of DOC’s 13 prisons: five at Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, three at Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla, and three at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville—the state’s only women’s prison.

“None of these individuals were COVID positive at the time of death,” says DOC spokeswoman Betty Bernt.

Among the dozen people who died, the youngest was Sarah Maebell Rodgers, 27, who died Nov. 15 at a local hospital, according to DOC. The agency did not provide any details as to the cause of Rodgers’ death. Two of the OSP deaths were men in their early 30s: Roberto Ruiz, 31, who died at the prison on Nov. 26, and Aleksandr Petrenko, 33, who died at a local hospital on Dec. 12, according to DOC.

The department reported 44 total deaths in 2021. In comparison, 50 adults in custody died in 2020, Bernt says.

Seven of the 12 recent deaths were individuals in hospice care, she adds. “Many of our patients come to us in poor health, often related to lack of primary care and preventative services. In addition, as our population ages, we have seen increased morbidity and mortality that further adds to this problem.”

Former Oregon House Republican Leader Christine Drazan announced Tuesday that she will be running for governor

Rep. Drazan is adding her name to a growing list of Republican candidates running for the governor’s seat. She stepped down as House Republican leader in late 2020, ahead of the announcement.

Democrats have held the state’s highest office for more than three decades. Current Gov. Kate Brown is term-limited. In her announcement, she said, “Through these conversations, it has become clear that Oregonians are ready for change. They are tired of the backroom deals, the broken promises and the failed leadership. They are tired of our state consistently being in the national headlines for all the wrong reasons. Frankly, I am too”.

Gas Prices Up in Oregon

The average price of gas in Oregon is up six cents a gallon over the last week, which is the largest increase in the country. The triple-A reports Oregon’s average is three-dollars-and-83-cents-a-gallon.

A refinery fire in Texas and distribution problems due to weather in the Pacific Northwest caused prices to increase. Oregon’s average is fifth highest in the country. Washington State is third with an average price of three-dollars-and-89-cents.  Bend’s average price for a gallon of regular is $3.91. Klamath Falls is generally two cents higher than Bend.

New AirBnb Test in Oregon

AirBnb will soon block hosts in Oregon from seeing prospective guests’ full names, in an anti-racism experiment. For two years, beginning January 31st, Oregon landlords offering houses and apartments on the popular short-term rental website will initially see only guests’ first initials. Full names won’t appear until after the booking is confirmed.
The experiment Airbnb announced Tuesday is aimed at curbing discrimination against Black travelers.

Oregon And Washington Facing Severe Blood Shortage

Blood service organizations like the American Red Cross and Bloodworks Northwest have called on the public for help, as the region reaches unprecedented blood shortage levels.

“There is truly an unprecedented, prolonged national blood shortage,” said Bloodworks Northwest Executive Vice President of Blood Services, Vicki Finson . “I would call it a crisis.”Blood shortage: Red Cross in need of donors”

Finson said the dire, pre-existing need for donors was exacerbated by recent inclement weather, staff shortages, and the Omicron variant surge. “Locally, as we speak right now, we have less than 50% of a one-day supply of blood,” Finson explained.

American Red Cross Regional Biomedical Services Support Manager for the Pacific Northwest Region, Mack Fitz-Gerald says that road closures caused by the winter storms have forced the organization to close blood drives and cancel blood transport to local hospitals in need.

“In the last two weeks alone, the Red Cross in our Pacific Northwest region has seen about 1,000 units lost,” said Fitz-Gerald. “That is critical to us. That is 3,000 potential lives that have been affected. And the only way we can make that better is to try and get the donors in the door now to help fulfill that need.”

He added, “To most people 1000 units doesn’t sound like much, but to us it is detrimental. It’s a huge loss. When we’re already impacted by COVID, and the normal deficit as it is, this is really devastating.”

Although, Bloodworks Northwest and The American Red Cross both claim to be experiencing ongoing staff shortages, the organizations say they have enough staff to meet the rise in demand and service incoming donors.

“We do have adequate staff to be collecting way more blood than we are right now. But it is impacting our ability to set up pop-ups,” Finson stated. “I don’t think anyone has gone without a transfusion, but I know there have been delays.”

According to Fitz-Gerald, the severe lack of blood donations comes down to a matter of life and death.

“You don’t want to use the word death, but that’s exactly what it is,” he explained. “The blood product services and platelets go to the hospitals for a reason, whether it be for surgeries or other life saving issues.”

Fitz-Gerald continued, “So, if we’re not getting it [blood] there, and patients are postponing surgeries or not having procedures done, that could have a detrimental impact on those individual’s lives.”

Bloodworks Northwest currently has all centers open . Blood donations can be scheduled online and are available by appointment only.

Finson said, sometimes appointments go quickly — but that doesn’t mean the need has been met. She recommends making an appointment for a later time, if possible.

“You might try to make an appointment and not find something and think, ‘Oh gosh, they don’t need me.’ Yes we do!” Exclaimed Finson. “We draw blood 364 days of the year, patients are transfused 365 days. This is ongoing, it’s forever, and everyday. So don’t get discouraged. Whenever you donate, you’re helping.”

The American Red Cross is accepting blood donor appointments online , through their app , and over the phone at: 1-800-398-7888.

“Having these shortages and patients not be able to have their lives saved due to the blood not being there is a huge problem right now.” Fitz-Gerald said. “The number one reason why people don’t donate is because they weren’t asked. So we just need to put the ask out there. We desperately need it, the patients need it.”

E. Coli Outbreak Linked To Salads Sold At Kroger Stores Includes Cases In Oregon And Washington

The CDC’s third foodborne illness outbreak in the last month, an E. coli outbreak, traces to organic packaged salads sold under the store brands of the Kroger and Giant Eagle chains.

Here’s what you need to know, from the CDC’s Dec. 30 update:

So far, 13 people have been sickened, four of whom are hospitalized, across six states: Washington (seven), Alaska (two), California, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon (one each). No deaths have been reported.

Packaged salads involved: Simple Truth Organic Power Greens, sold at stores in the Kroger chain (Kroger, Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, QFC and others), and Nature’s Basket Organic Power Greens, sold at stores in the Giant Eagle chain. Six of the people at the Simple Truth greens and one ate the Nature’s Basket greens.

No recall has been issued for either product, although the CDC is advising if you have the packaged salads with a “best by” date of Dec. 20, 2021, toss them.

Investigators are looking into other brands possibly involved. It’s not uncommon for a food producer to make the same product for numerous brands, sometimes name brands and store brands.

Some symptoms of E. coli: Anywhere from one to 10 days after eating the bacteria, but usually three or four days, high fever, stomachaches, vomiting and diarrhea can start. The diarrhea can get bloody. The worst symptom is hemolytic uremic syndrome, a form of kidney failure that can make E. coli deadly.

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A 17-year-old was reported missing in Salem and detectives say the teen might be the victim of an online catfishing scheme.

Ezra Mayhugh, 17, was last seen on October 15, 2021 after being dropped off in downtown Salem by a friend, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said. He was reported as a runaway the following day when he did not return home.

Investigators say he might be in Washington or California. They hope to reunite Ezra safely with family members.

He’s described as about 5-foot 11-inches tall, weighing 130 pounds, with blonde hair and brown eyes.

If you have had contact with Mayhugh since October 15 or have other helpful information on his whereabouts, the sheriff’s office asks you to contact Detective M.J. Sphoon at 503-588-6808 or to submit a tip by texting TIPMCSO and your tip to 847411.


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