PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It is safe to say the winter storm that walloped the Portland metro last week caught many by surprise — including school and civic leaders.

The National Weather Service apologized to Portland Public Schools, who rely on the forecast from the NWS. Like many other districts, PPS did not dismiss students early because they did not know the storm would start around the time kids got onto the buses.

On Saturday, Gov. Tina Kotek declared a state of emergency in Multnomah County through this coming Saturday. That allows the state to provide extra workers for emergency weather shelters, vehicles and staff to help get people to those shelters plus plowing and sanding help for the roads.

Kotek issued the declaration after a request from Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and a recommendation from the Oregon Department of Emergency Management.

But what else could be done to avoid the pileup of stranded cars in a bad storm?

“If I’m away from my neighborhood and I’m away from my child’s school, I have so many contacts in the community that I can call upon to help me and I have communicated my plans with the school,” said Laura Hall with the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management. “So the school knows that they can release my child to any given number of people and I don’t have to drive across town in an emergency situation to pick them up at a certain time.”

City officials told KOIN 6 News they intend to do more messaging to drivers — keep an overnight bag if you work far from home, even a sleeping bag, snacks and water just in case weather takes over and snarls everything.

One of the many cars abandoned along Portland roads during a snowstorm, February 25, 2023 (KOIN)
One of the many cars abandoned along Portland roads during a snowstorm, February 25, 2023 (KOIN)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation said a few days ago it regretted sending some plow drivers home earlier on Wednesday — before the storm hit earlier and heavier than expected. Those drivers were called back in.

The idea of shutting down major roads ahead of the tangle of stuck and abandoned cars is a tough call. Plows could get through, but closing the roads would prevent drivers with traction devices from getting where they want to go.

Once again local and state leaders will take another look at what happened. But all told KOIN 6 News their focus is to clear the roads now and provide shelter — as more snow may fall.