Portland city leaders used phrases like “all hands on deck” and “we’re in this together,” in describing both the preparation for the anticipated winter weather and the cooperation they’re hoping to get from the public.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather warning from 7 p.m. Friday through 4 p.m. Saturday. Accumulations up to 4 inches are predicted for much of the Portland metro area. That’s not a ton of snow, but in past years, it’s been enough to bring the Rose City to a standstill.
City leaders said they’re better prepared than two years ago, when snowstorms and lingering ice paralyzed Portland for the second half of January. Mayor Ted Wheeler brought up that difficult memory less than a minute into a Friday afternoon press conference on weather preparations.
“It goes without saying that we learned a lot of lessons from the storms of 2017,” Wheeler said. “We have more plows, more salt and more resources.”
Salt has been controversial in the city because of its environmental effects. But Portland leaders allowed an increased use of salt in 2017, after its limited use showed it significantly improves road conditions.
As the most recent storm approached, city leaders said salt would be a key part of Portland’s strategy to keep traffic moving after the snow starts falling.
“We are prepared to throw everything we have at this storm,” promised Chris Warner, interim director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “Our crews … are working around the clock, and we will be using every tool at our disposal, and that would include salt.”
Warner said the bureau plans to salt 99 miles of city roads, and use magnesium chloride on 500 miles more. He asked Portlanders to help out by shoveling their sidewalks.
At Portland International Airport, a number of flights had been canceled or delayed Friday — many to or from Seattle, which was also facing winter weather.
Wheeler and the others also pleaded with Portlanders to do their part: Stay out of the way of road crews, keep emergency kits and chains in your cars, and check on your neighbors.
Warner told drivers not to abandon their cars on snowy roads — another problem in past years. He said those cars will be ticketed and towed.
City and county leaders said plans are also in place to help people without adequate shelter. Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury counted 300 emergency shelter beds for the winter weather, making a total of 2,000 beds available.
“No one will be turned away,” Kafoury pledged.
Wheeler said he’s asking thousands of city employees to “volunteer” at shelters, to help serve people coming indoors.
Officials suggest calling 211 to connect people with services — or even 911, if a person’s life seems at risk. See a full list of Multnomah County warming centers here.
OPB’s Meerah Powell contributed to this story.