PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Officials are advising residents on how to prepare for the weekend’s anticipated snow and frigid temperatures which led Oregon, Multnomah County and Portland to all declare a weather-related state of emergency.
Oregon Department of Transportation warned drivers to travel with caution, especially those braving mountain passes in the snow and ice.
“Anyone going over the mountain passes should go to TripCheck.com and check your route all along the route,” said Don Hamilton, a spokesperson with ODOT. “More importantly, drive for conditions. Know what you’re doing when you hit the road. When you see the conditions, it could be treacherous out there.”
Some mountain roads require drivers to have chained tires. ODOT released an instructional video on how to install them.
“Crews will be out there doing everything we can,” Hamilton said. “We’re gonna do everything we can, we’re gonna have all our tools out there — salt, plows, sand, everything is gonna be on the roads out there in the days ahead and going through the holiday weekend.”
Officials with Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management told drivers to keep landslides in mind and stay vigilant of failing embankments as snow and ice can trigger debris flows.
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.
OEM officials warned that snow, ice and wind can damage cell towers and knock out communications, so they suggested everyone keep a battery-powered radio to listen for public announcements.
Pet owners should keep their furry ones inside as freezing temperatures approach and remove any de-icing salt from their reach, officials said.
PGE expecting outages
Utilities companies told residents to prepare their homes for outages and water main breaks.
“We’re looking 4, 7, 10 days out so we can adequately prepare ourselves for what Mother Nature may throw at us,” said John Farmer with Portland General Electric.
Farmer said PGE crews have been trimming trees, inspecting and maintaining equipment to make sure they’re ready to respond to potential power outages — but they’re also reminding customers to have emergency kits ready to go in case the lights go out.
PGE suggests keeping some items on hand, including a reserve of extra blankets, flashlights, batteries, car chargers for cell phones and non-perishable or ready-to-eat food and water.
Main water break season
The Portland Water Bureau is bracing for what they call “main break season.”
“We have emergency crews that are ready to respond around the clock 24 7, even on Christmas,” said Jaymee Cuti with PWB.
The bureau recommends insulating hose bibs and outside faucets, along with disconnecting hoses when not in use. Additionally, those traveling are advised to turn their hot water furnaces down.
On the inside of the house, officials said to open plumbing cabinets and let the warm air in. Once temperatures get frigid, the bureau advises to let the faucets drip to prevent pipes from freezing.
When a pipe freezes, homeowners can use a hairdryer to slowly thaw it out. To prevent the pipe from freezing again, officials suggest running some water.
If a pipe does break, the valve to the main water line should be turned off. The valve can usually be found where the hose gets connected, in the basement by the hot water heater or inside the garage.
From there, residents should turn the hot water heater off and contact a plumber to start the repair process.
Portland, Multnomah County and Joint Office of Homeless Services will open severe winter weather shelters on Christmas Day at 3 p.m. 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. Pets are also welcome at the warming shelters.
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.
Oregonians can dial *677 to reach the Oregon State Police for non-emergency help. Life-threatening emergencies should always be referred to 911.
Those in need of additional advice from the Portland Water Bureau can call 503.823.7770.