PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Downtown Portland received 2 inches of snow overnight, but still, Multnomah County’s severe weather shelters remained closed.
The county said the thresholds requiring the shelters to open were not met. Multnomah County opens its severe weather shelters either when temperatures at the Portland International Airport are 25 degrees Fahrenheit or below, or when overnight temperatures drop below 32 degrees and an inch of precipitation is expected.
“Obviously you know, things took a turn last night. All of the worst case things happened together and we saw a lot of snow this morning when we woke up,” said Denis Theriault, deputy communications director for Multnomah County.
The temperature at the Portland International Airport dropped to 33 degrees for about 5 minutes Monday morning, but otherwise remained above that, according to KOIN Meteorologist Joseph Dames.
The National Weather Service said about 1 inch of snow fell at the airport.
Theriault said the county is always talking to the National Weather Service and was monitoring what sort of conditions the anticipated storm could bring. He said they were told the temperature would drop to somewhere between 34 and 39 degrees overnight, which is not low enough to require the shelters to open.
“If the forecast changes at, you know, 8, 9, 10 o’clock in the evening, that’s awfully late for us to mobilize all the folks we need to get those spaces open, and it’s even harder when we’re kind of out of our severe weather season,” Theriault said.
He said normally the county has shelter providers on-call between November and March to staff the severe weather shelters. In April, the county starts thinking about getting shelters ready for heat events, not winter weather. One severe weather shelter, at 120 SE Market St., is currently undergoing renovations to become a longer-term shelter that could open as soon as May.
Typically, the Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services will put out an initial call to county and city employees, asking them to staff severe weather shelters when there is a need, Theriault said
He said a sign-up list was never sent to county and city employees for the storm Sunday night into Monday morning because the conditions didn’t significantly worsen until late Sunday night.
For Monday night, Theriault said the county is not planning to open severe weather shelters. He said county officials will continue to monitor what meteorologists are saying and if conditions worsen throughout the week, they may decide to open the shelters.
In the meantime, the county is offering winter weather supplies to homeless people in need. He said nonprofits are welcome to visit the county’s location at Southwest 5th Avenue and Washington Street to collect the supplies and help distribute them to people. The county offers things like tarps, sleeping bags, tents, blankets, hats, gloves, socks and winter boots.
He said outreach workers will be checking on homeless people in the area in all parts of the county to make sure people have what they need.
Theriault said he hopes many people still have their winter gear on hand from the colder months and that they were able to use it.
Currently, he said there’s about 10% available capacity at the county’s shelters. It’s not much, but if people are interested in finding a warm place to sleep at night, they can call 211 or go to the Transition Projects Resource Center at 650 NW Irving St., in the Bud Clark Commons, to get connected with a shelter.