Author photo of a previous winter storm, 2017
Portland is expected to have its first big winter storm in a couple of years.
Forecasters are predicting that rain will turn to freezing rain mid-day Thursday, then by late afternoon to early evening the metro area will see snowfall. Snowfall is expected to last through Friday, after which a deep freeze will linger for a few days.
If you’ve never been in Portland during a major storm, be aware: anything over two inches of snow will paralyze the city. If you’re from the Midwest like me, that may surprise you.
The Portland area is generally unprepared for snow. According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), the city only owns 56 gravel spreading trucks with snowplows attached and 12 salt trucks with plows attached. And that’s way more than there used to be.
Here are some things you should think about to prepare for our likely “Snowmageddon” tomorrow.
Road Conditions Will Suck
For the most part, the state of Oregon does not use rock salt. If you are from a more wintry part of the country, that may surprise you. Local jurisdictions will typically use rock salt around the trauma hospitals and some of the most dangerous roads in the city, like upper West Burnside.
If a snowplow gets to your area, it will only focus on the major streets. Side streets are essentially never plowed. Those plows will dump gravel in lieu of rock salt. That gravel will then freeze to the snow or ding up your car.
When roads get icy, even a small change in elevation will result in cars and buses sliding around. People will get stuck and abandon their cars willy-nilly on the side of the road.
Most people in the Portland area also have no clue how to drive in snow and ice. Many seem to believe that their SUVs are impervious to slipping on ice, and will crash into you. Even if you have lived in a place with snow and ice and actually know how to drive in those conditions, do yourself a favor and don’t drive.
If you absolutely have to drive, Trimet is your friend. The buses will be chained and the drivers are more experienced with driving in bad weather, and MAX lines generally are able to keep running through most storms.
It Will Be Like a Zombie Movie at the Grocery Store
Portland is famous for having a shortage of kale before major storms and while people may think that’s funny, our neighbors are serious about their food. Anyone who has lived here a while knows that if the snow gets bad, they will be trapped in their house for days. In order to prevent a Donner party-like experience at their homes, they will stock up on as many groceries as they can get their hands on.
If you don’t have enough food to last you through the early part of next week, just in case, get to a grocery store right away. Once the snow starts falling, you’re not going to be able to get any Instacart or Door Dash deliveries.
While you’re shopping, pick up some extra water, candles, and batteries in case the power goes out. And don’t forget to make sure you have enough food for your pets. If you have elderly relatives or neighbors, offer to pick up some groceries for them as well.
You Need to Take Care of Your House
Make it a priority to winterize your home right now. First on the list, protecting your plumbing. Frozen water pipes will cost you a fortune. Disconnect your garden hoses and insulate your outdoor house bibs.
If you have water pipes in unheated parts of your home like garages and basements, be sure they’re insulated or leave your faucets on a slow drip to keep the pipes from freezing. I guarantee the impact on your water bill will be minimal compared to replacing your pipes and cleaning up frozen water afterward.
Seal up doors and windows to keep the heat in as much as possible. Take a few minutes to seal up any drafts and minimize heat loss from your home.
Winds are expected to be high, so put away anything in your yard that tends to fly away during high winds.
If possible, move all of your vehicles into your driveway to avoid someone sliding into them on the street.
If ice storms hit, your power may go out. Be sure you know where all your flashlights and candles are. If the power is out for a few days, you won’t have hot water, so you may want to make sure you have baby wipes for cleaning up.
Be sure you have a plan for how you’ll keep warm if your power goes out. Gather firewood if you have a fireplace, and dig out sleeping bags and blankets.
Remember if your power goes out, it will cold enough that you can move the contents of your refrigerator and freezer outside or into your garage.
Other Things to Consider
Keep your electronics fully charged until the weather clears. Have a back-up plan for how you will charge your cell phone if the power goes out.
If you are able to work at home, plan to do so on Thursday and Friday. If you have to go into the office, be sure you have a plan to get home if the roads are bad. Map out bus routes from your work to your home.
If you plan to drive, make sure you are prepared in case you have to stay in your car for hours. This has happened many times over the past few years, so don’t be one of those motorists that get trapped on the freeway with no supplies. Pack a shovel, kitty litter, warm clothes, blankets, snacks, and an ice scraper for your windows.
Bring warm clothes, gloves, a hat, and shoes you can walk in the snow with, just in case you get trapped somewhere and wind up walking
Icy roads and sidewalks can be hard to navigate on foot. Some things that can be helpful for traction: Yaktrax, using golf shoes, or pulling tube socks over your shoes.
Remember, in a bad storm, your best option is likely to stay in your home and enjoy a snow day.
#winter #snow #portland #safety #preparedness