— Oregon Highway Patrol officials say they’ve been forced to cut back on traffic patrols because the state’s highways are not equipped with emergency lights, as required under a new law.
The law, which took effect Friday, requires that the state install emergency lights at the first signs of an emergency in a 10-mile radius, or about 50 yards.
The Oregon Highway Patrol is currently in the process of installing emergency lights on at least eight miles of the state highway system, but officials say the state is not yet ready to go into full-scale operation.
“It’s a matter of time,” said Lt.
Todd Clements with the OHP.
The new law was introduced by Democrat Jon Keyser, who says Oregon is “unprepared for the eventuality” that a tornado or hurricane makes landfall.
But many of the states most vulnerable to severe weather are in the path of the largest storms, such as the storms that struck the U.S. this summer and winter.
Keyes proposed the law in order to help alleviate some of the stress that comes with a state government shutdown, but critics say the new law could have serious consequences.
“It is very difficult to predict exactly when these storms will hit, but the more of these that come along, the more it creates the possibility that a closure could happen,” said John Burt, a spokesman for the National Weather Service in Portland.
In the state of Washington, there are more than 300 active storm warning areas in the region, and in Portland, the city has been hit by at least six tornado warnings.
The new rule also comes amid rising concerns that the government could be unable to afford the equipment needed to respond to tornadoes, floods and other disasters, such a hurricane.
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Oregon is already facing a shortage of critical infrastructure, including water and sewer systems.
The state has about $2.5 billion in budget cuts since 2014, and many of those cuts have already been passed.
Some lawmakers, including Democratic Governor Kate Brown, have called for raising the state income tax to help pay for the needed repairs.