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UPDATES: Salem to be protected by National Guard as protests loom

13 days ago

Oregon National Guard activated to respond to potential protests at Capitol

Oregon Army National Guard soldiers set up a temporary medical facility at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem on Thursday, March 19, 2020 (Courtesy Zachary Holden/Oregon National Guard)

Oregon State Police may deploy members of the Oregon Army National Guard to respond to potential protests at the state Capitol.

OSP Superintendent Terri Davie announced the activation Wednesday in a news release.

“The Oregon State Police will continue to take a neutral role in ensuring Oregonians exercise their First Amendment rights,” Davie said. “For the past seven months, your Troopers have responded throughout Oregon to various protests, unlawful assemblies and riots. Our goals have always been to protect people, protect people’s rights and to protect property. The recent events at our Nation's Capitol building and at our own statehouse illustrate the need for law enforcement to be prepared and appropriately staffed for any large gatherings."

The announcement comes one day after Salem City Councilor Vanessa Nordyke urged city leaders to request National Guard presence. Earlier this week, the FBI issued a memo to local law enforcement agencies across the U.S. warning of potential armed protests and violence in the days leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

The Oregon Capitol has been the site of multiple violent demonstrations in recent months, including a Dec. 21 protest where armed members of far-right militia groups attempted to break into the building and maced police officers.

State police said in the announcement they would not discuss specific threats or tactical plans publicly or say where National Guard members are being deployed.

13 days ago

Senators secure funding for high-speed internet in Polk County

Polk County Courthouse (Courtesy of Jolene Guzman/Polk Itemizer-Observer)

High-speed broadband is on its way to rural parts of Polk and Linn counties. 

Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced on Wednesday that PEAK Internet will receive $13.2 million in federal funds to help connect 5,265 people, 32 businesses, 13 farms and two public schools to high-speed broadband internet in the counties. 

The funding is part of the federal ReConnect program that seeks to give rural communities better internet access. The senators said in a statement that broadband internet is particularly important at a time when Oregonians are working from home, attending school remotely or receiving telehealth services because of the pandemic.

13 days ago

State vaccine advisory committee meets Thursday

Salem Health began a Covid vaccine clinic at the state fairgrounds on Jan. 7 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

A state committee that will decide how Oregon will prioritize vaccinations for essential workers and people with underlying health conditions is meeting Thursday.

Gov. Kate Brown's vaccine advisory committee meets Jan. 14 from 10 a.m. to noon on Zoom and is open to the public. A link to view the meeting or submit public comment is available on the committee's website.

The group is tasked with ensuring the state's vaccination plan is equitable and includes communities most impacted by Covid, which has disproportionately sickened Black, Pacific Islander and Latino Oregonians. It includes more than two dozen representatives from Oregon hospitals, tribes, advocacy organizations and health care nonprofits.

Those from the Salem area include Marin Arreola, a program director with the Interface Network, a nonprofit health care organization that has worked on mass testing events and providing assistance in Spanish and Russian to people seeking information about Covid. They also include Shawn Baird, director of Woodburn Ambulance and Daysi Bedolla Sotelo, organizing director with PCUN, Oregon's farmworker union.

13 days ago

Video captures Salem Fire Department boat sinking

A passerby caught a short video of a Salem Fire Department rescue boat sinking in the Willamette River on Monday, Jan. 11, during a training mission. (Salem Fire Department video /screenshot)

The Salem Fire Department on Tuesday released a short video capturing the sinking of an agency boat on the Willamette River.

Three firefighters were on the boat for a training exercise when it capsized and sank in high, fast water near the Marion Street Bridge, the agency said. The three, engaged in what the agency described as boat operator training, swam to shore as the boat disappeared under water and none reported injuries.

Salvage efforts to recover the boat were anticipated later this week.

The river water level had been dropping at Salem, hitting 14.57 feet at 6 a.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. The service is forecasting the river to rise in coming days, peaking at 21 feet on Thursday morning.

13 days ago

PGE dealing with 40 outages in Marion County

Winds that gusted to more than 40 mph hit the Salem area overnight into Wednesday morning, leaving nearly 4,000 homes and businesses without power.

PGE reported early Wednesday that 40 outages across Marion County cut electricity to 8,184. That included 3,800 in the Salem area, mostly concentrated in the 97303 Zip Code. The utility's websites projected power would be restored by Wednesday evening.

Customers of PGE can report a Salem-area outage by calling 503-399-7717.

Salem Electric's website was showing three outages, including one in west Salem caused by a falling tree that left 20 customers without power. Salem Electric customers can report an outage by calling 503-362-3601.

Oregon utilities were reporting outages throughout the Willamette Valley and the Portland area.The National Weather Service said the weather front that brought stormy weather to the Willamette Valley would move out on Wednesday. The weather service clocked winds average more than 20 mph through Tuesday evening with a peak gust of 43 mph at just before 9 p.m.

Salem recorded 1.84 inches of rain in the 24-hour period ending at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

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