Where We Live: Portland’s faithful weather beacon

Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland is one of the few places in the United States where the public can still get their basic forecast from a weather beacon.

On the roof of the Standard Insurance building in Southwest Portland, a 4-foot weather beacon is perched atop a 50-foot pole. The beacon features dozens of colored LED bulbs that convey basic forecast information.

The weather beacon on top the Standard Insurance building in Southwest Portland, Dec. 5, 2019. (KOIN)

If the beacon is red, it means a 5-degree warm-up is expected in the next 24 hours. Green means the temperature isn’t expected to change and white means the temperature will fall by 5-degrees.

If the beacon is flashing, precipitation is expected.

Dozens of weather beacons were once scattered across the United States.

“We started to see the advent of these weather beacons in the 1950s and 1960s, and there were dozens of them at one time scattered around cities in the United States,” said Bob Speltz with The Standard.

Bob Speltz at The Standard, Dec. 5, 2019. (KOIN)

The forecast is updated twice a day with data from the National Weather Service.

“This time of year, you can almost bet that the beacon will be green, and it’s going to be flashing,” said Speltz.

The Standard’s weather beacon was built in 1950 on top of another Standard property as a public service. It moved to its current location in 1963.

“Standard Plaza was one of the largest buildings in downtown, so this beacon could be seen from miles and miles away,” Speltz told KOIN 6 News.

The beacon has been updated several times, most recently with LED lighting to keep costs low. Speltz said even though the beacon is obsolete, people still look to it for guidance. It even has its own Twitter account.

Speltz said they’ll keep this weather beacon working — forever.

“The weather beacon is iconic, it’s a special part of Portland and it’s a special part of our company’s history.”

Only a few other cities still have weather beacons, including Toronto, Boston and San Francisco.

About KOIN 6 News: Broadcasting since 1953, KOIN 6 is Portland’s CBS affiliate, providing local news, network and syndicated entertainment to viewers in Oregon and Southwest Washington. KOIN 6 News is Watching Out for You with 35 hours of local news each week.

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