PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — During a press conference Thursday, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury declared a state of emergency for the county from Friday until Jan. 3 ahead of an anticipated blast of snow and freezing temperatures that could hit the area as early as Friday evening.
“This will give us the maximum ability to plan, contract and seek additional resources over what could be a very long cold snap stretching to the new year,” Kafoury said.
Need a shelter near you? Call 211
Mayor Ted Wheeler also declared an emergency for Portland, starting at 8 a.m. Friday and lasting through Dec. 31.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also declared a weather state of emergency through January 3, 2022. This declaration allows her to activate resources to help any part of the state during severe weather. Also, “the Oregon National Guard, Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon Department of Human Services, and the Oregon Public Utility Commission and other state agencies” will be called in to help as necessary.
“Our state has experienced a number of climate-related emergencies this year, and with another coming, I urge all Oregonians to make a plan with your family now and be prepared,” Governor Brown said in a statement.
Kafoury said city and county leaders called the conference due to the expected impact of the snowy and icy conditions on residents’ health and infrastructure.
“The especially cold and wet winter weather that experts predicted weeks ago is on its way,” Kafoury said ahead of the press conference. “According to the latest forecasts, our region is facing an extended period of snow and frigid temperatures, starting this weekend and worsening next week. Those are conditions that bring a high risk of danger to our neighbors who are surviving outside without a home.”
Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County health officer, said there is a substantial risk of hypothermia over the holidays. She cautioned community members that the signs of hypothermia can look similar to intoxication.
“Hypothermia often looks like confusion, clumsiness or passing out,” Vines said. “It looks similar to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but please don’t assume that’s what is happening.”
Officials asked for volunteers to help staff shelters, which could be strained as the weather is expected to approach freezing on Sunday.
The city, county and Joint Office of Homeless Services will open severe winter weather shelters on Christmas Day at 3 p.m., officials said. A list of those shelters, along with updated hours, can be found here. Anyone in need of a shelter can also call 211 and request free transportation.
Commissioner Dan Ryan encouraged Portlanders to extend a helping hand to those in need during weather emergencies.
“You can help by checking on your unhoused neighbor and referring them to 211 for shelter transport,” Ryan said. “You can help by checking on your elderly neighbors or neighbors with disabilities and shoveling their sidewalks and by keeping your sidewalks clear. You can help by volunteering your time for a shelter shift.”
JOHS is helping hand out cold-weather supplies, including sleeping bags, wool blankets, socks and tents. Those who want to volunteer in distributing the supplies can email JOHSsupplies@multco.us for more information.
A list of shelters accepting winter gear donations can be found at 211info.org/donations.
Citing an advisory from the National Weather Service, the Portland Bureau of Transportation urged people across the metro area to hunker down and avoid traveling during severe weather. The bureau told Portlanders to prepare for snow and frigid temperatures starting as early as Friday evening for places above 500 feet elevation.
PBOT also cancelled planned vacation time for its essential employees, anticipating that the weather will force the bureau into round-the-clock operations.
“Community support is going to be crucial to reach people living outside, especially because outreach workers are more likely to be out during the holiday,” a Multnomah County spokesperson said.