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Portland Bureau of Transportation

We keep Portland moving

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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Frequently Asked Questions

Snow and Ice Plan - Frequently Asked Questions

NEW THIS YEAR

  1. How will the City of Portland’s winter weather operations change this year?
  2. Is the City prepared to respond to a snow or ice storm at any moment?

STREET CLOSURES

  1. Where can I find up-to-date information on road conditions and closures?
  2. How can I subscribe to alerts about road conditions and closures?

PLOWING AND SANDING

  1. When will my street be plowed?
  2. What are the major plow routes in my neighborhood?
  3. Why doesn’t the City plow neighborhood side streets?
  4. My street is right off the main road of a plow route. It would take just a minute for the truck to swing in and plow my street. Why won’t they do that?
  5. Who determines when the snow plows are called out?
  6. How many plow trucks does the City have?
  7. Why did the snow plow leave after plowing only one lane? Are they coming back?
  8. Rather than plow the snow to the side of the street and across my driveway, why not plow to the center of the street?
  9. Why are the streets in one part of the city cleared better than in other parts of the city?
  10. Why did the plow truck go by with the plow blade up?
  11. Why are City trucks out when there is no snow?
  12. Why doesn’t the City use more sand?
  13. When will the City clean up the sand and gravel that they put down on the streets?
  14. There is a lot of ice buildup around manhole covers. Driving over them is like driving over a large pothole. Can the City do something?

ANTI-ICING AND DE-ICING

  1. What do you mean by anti-icing and de-icing?
  2. Why do trucks spray liquid onto the street before a storm arrives?
  3. Why do trucks spray liquid onto the street after a storm is over?
  4. Why doesn’t the City use salt? What products does the City use on the roadways during a snow and ice storm?

SIDEWALKS AND DRIVEWAYS

  1. My sidewalk is covered with snow and ice. Will the City clear it off?
  2. Why did the plow dump all the snow in my driveway? Will the City clear it off?

DOWNTOWN OPERATIONS

  1. Will the City clear Downtown Portland streets of snow and ice?
  2. Will the City clear Downtown Portland sidewalks of snow and ice?

REGULATIONS, TICKETS AND TOWING

  1. Why did my car get ticketed or towed?
  2. My car was towed. Where is it?
  3. Am I allowed to park on the street in a storm or when trucks are out plowing?
  4. What should I do if I’m driving, conditions get worse, and I can’t get home?
  5. Are chains required on Portland streets when it snows?
  6. Are studded snow tires allowed inPortland?
  7. Am I allowed to pass a snow plow?

WHAT TO DO BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER A STORM

  1. As a resident or business owner, what should I do before a winter storm?
  2. As a resident or business owner, what should I do during a winter storm?
  3. As a resident or business owner, what should I do after a winter storm?

WEATHER FORECAST AND OPERATIONS

  1. The forecasters are predicting snow. How is the City preparing?
  2. There is snow on the ground. Is the City going to plow?
  3. The forecast calls for freezing temperatures. Is the City treating the streets?
  4. What is the difference between sleet and freezing rain?

OTHER

  1. How will emergency vehicles get to my home?
  2. I remember the storm of December 2008. How did it compare with other snow storms in Portland?
  3. How much does a major snow storm cost the City?
  4. Where can I read the City’s snow and ice plan?
  5. What if my water pipes freeze or break?

 

NEW THIS YEAR

1.     How will the City of Portland’s winter weather operations change this year?

Because winter weather in the Portland area can change quickly and without warning, making travel unpredictable, we are emphasizing the need for early preparedness - both for the City’s snow and ice responders and for Portlanders. The City of Portland and our partners are ready. We ask you to be ready, too. Every resident and business should be prepared for the worst possible conditions and take heed of severe weather warnings. Plan ahead if you have to venture out in bad weather.

2.     Is the City prepared to respond to a snow or ice storm at any moment?

The City is prepared to respond to any emergency 24/7, including a snow and ice storm. When there is a forecast of snow and ice, the City prepares to enact its Snow and Ice Plan. The decision whether or not to anti-ice, plow or sand streets is dependent upon reliable weather information.

Our stand-down condition during the winter season (November 1 through March 15) is that all trucks are in routine use. Chains are repaired and in storage. Sanders are cleaned, lubed and stored. Plows are cleaned, repaired and stored. Loaders are in routine use. Barricades and barricade trucks are in routine use or stored. Anti-icing chemicals are in storage, and tanks are cleaned and stored.

Employees are trained and familiar with their plow routes and road treatment operations.

Every day we clean out our trucks at the end of the day in preparation for a winter storm event so that there is no contamination of materials should we need to apply sand and gravel to streets or plow streets.

 

STREET CLOSURES

1.     Where can I find up-to-date information on road conditions and closures?

Check www.PublicAlerts.org. It will provide local street closure information in a winter storm event. It also includes links to ODOT's TripCheck for highway road conditions, links to TriMet for bus and light rail schedules, and links to information about the Portland Streetcar and the Portland Aerial Tram.

2.     How can I subscribe to alerts about road conditions and closures?

Check www.PublicAlerts.org to sign up for alerts. Follow the Portland Bureau of Transportation on Twitter at @PBOTinfo.

 

PLOWING AND SANDING

1.     When will my street be plowed?

  • First, determine if your address is on one of our designated plow routes. Go to www.PublicAlerts.org, click “Roads and Bridges,” and enter your Portland street address to see local plow routes.

The City’s designated plow routes, most of which are arterials, make up about 26% of all City streets. The City maintains more than 4,700 miles of streets. Of those, 1,300 miles are arterials, and 518 miles are bus snow routes. They are the backbone of our street network and are the highest priority facilities for anti-icing, plowing, and sanding. They include bridges, overpasses, and streets that generally follow major bus routes. These streets support bus, MAX light rail, and Streetcar routes and connect Police and Fire stations, hospitals, and major districts in the city.

During a storm, the City’s limited number of plows and employees are fully utilized to maintain the priority routes in a passable condition for transit and emergency vehicle use.

In a major snowfall, it takes about 12 hours to plow a full route once.

For these reasons, the City does not sand, plow, and de-ice neighborhood side streets during snow and ice events. In addition, we cannot safely get our trucks up and down many steep and narrow streets in the hills. Streets of grades over 14% are not able to be treated because such an operation would endanger crews and equipment. If you choose to drive on steep streets, we encourage you to buy chains, dry fit them, carry them in your vehicle, and use them.

We appreciate your patience during snow clear up.

2.     What are the major plow routes in my neighborhood?

Examples of major routes that receive the City’s anti-icing, plowing, and sanding services are:

  • Northwest:  W Burnside, NW Broadway, NW 23rd, NW Glisan, NW Everett, NW Skyline, NW Germantown Road, NWCornell
  • Southwest:  SW Broadway, SW 4th,SW Hamilton, SW Bancroft
  • North:  N Going, N Columbia, N Greeley, N Williams, N Vancouver,N Willamette
  • East:  SE Division, SE Foster, SE Stark,SE Washington,NE122nd
  • Northeast:  NE Killingsworth, NE Halsey, NE Fremont, NE Prescott, NE 33rd, NE Marine Drive
  • Southeast:  SE Foster, SE Division,SE CesarChavez

3.     Why doesn’t the City plow neighborhood side streets?

The City’s designated plow routes, most of which are arterials, make up about 26% of all City streets. The City maintains more than 4,700 miles of streets. Of those, 1,300 miles are arterials, and 518 miles are bus snow routes. They are the backbone of our street network and are the highest priority facilities for anti-icing, plowing, and sanding. They include bridges, overpasses, and streets that generally follow major bus routes. These streets support bus, MAX light rail, and Streetcar routes and connect Police and Fire stations, hospitals, and major districts in the city.

During a storm, the City’s limited number of plows and employees are fully utilized to maintain the priority routes in a passable condition for transit and emergency vehicle use.

In a major snowfall, it takes about 12 hours to plow a full route once.

For these reasons, the City does not sand, plow, and de-ice neighborhood side streets during snow and ice events. In addition, we cannot safely get our trucks up and down many steep and narrow streets in the hills. Streets of grades over 14% are not able to be treated because such an operation would endanger crews and equipment. If you choose to drive on steep streets, we encourage you to buy chains, dry fit them, carry them in your vehicle, and use them.

 

4.     My street is right off the main road of a plow route. It would take just a minute for the truck to swing in and plow my street. Why won’t they do that?

During a storm, the City’s limited number of plows and employees are fully utilized to maintain priority routes in a passable condition for transit and emergency vehicle use. We work around the clock to keep bridges, overpasses, major streets, transit routes, and emergency routes open. If crews started doing side streets, we could very quickly lose the priority streets and thereby impair transit operations, emergency response, and general mobility throughout the city.


5.     Who determines when the snow plows are called out?

When there is the threat of snow and ice, the City prepares to enact its Snow and Ice Plan. Snow and ice event operations are organized on the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS) model. The Portland Bureau of Transportation is the lead response agency for snow and ice events. Its managers and field personnel determine when and how to respond to a storm. The managers stationed at our Maintenance Operations yard are responsible for calling out the crews.

6.     How many plow trucks does the City have?

A total of 55 trucks are fitted with snowplows and sand spreaders. These trucks are used every day for activities such as filing potholes, flushing streets, and carrying materials to and from work sites for paving. The City uses large dump trucks fitted with plows and sanders to clear streets, bridges, and overpasses of ice, snow, or slush. The full fleet includes 55 plows and sanders, 5 anti-icing trucks, 10 service trucks, 5 big-wheel loaders, 2 backhoes, 2 road graders, 2 emergency trucks, 2 street closure trucks, and 1 fuel truck.

7.     Why did the snow plow leave after plowing only one lane? Are they coming back?

A plow truck can plow only 8 feet of a lane at a time. A 2-lane street with parking is typically 32 feet wide; therefore, it takes multiple passes to plow one section of a street. In a major snowfall, it takes about 12 hours to plow a full route once.

8.     Rather than plow the snow to the side of the street and across my driveway, why not plow to the center of the street?

The City’s plowing operation is from curb to curb on a street. Plowing snow to the center of the street could be very hazardous to the traveling public. Traffic flow would be restricted by eliminating a portion of a lane, and icy driving conditions would be created because of melting snow freezing on the pavement at night. This practice could also create sight obstructions for low vehicles and cause problems for residents entering and exiting the street.

9.     Why are the streets in one part of the city cleared better than in other parts of the city?

The City’s snow and ice service standards are the same for all designated plow routes. It is our intention to deliver a consistent level of snow and ice services throughout the city. However, on any given street these standards may be affected by the timing of the storm, the intensity of the storm, the amount of traffic and snowfall, varying temperatures, the unique geography of the district, and operational issues. In a major snowfall, it takes about 12 hours to plow a full route once.

Portland can have widely varying weather conditions throughout the city. It is not uncommon to have a significant amount of snow accumulation in one part of the city while a few miles away there is no snow at all. Portland has hills on both the east and the west sides of the city, several bridges and overpasses, and streets along rivers that are more exposed to freezing temperatures. These varying conditions increase travel difficulties and require special attention from City crews.

10. Why did the plow truck go by with the plow blade up?

There are many reasons a plow operator may have the blade up. The truck may be in operation only to spread materials like sand and gravel, or it may be out of materials and headed back to the maintenance yard for a refill. The truck may be responding to an emergency call or experiencing an equipment malfunction. Or, the operator may have determined that plowing will be ineffective at that particular location and time. Another possibility is that the driver does not have responsibility for the street they are currently on, and they are heading elsewhere.

11. Why are City trucks out when there is no snow?

Many factors often require that trucks be dispatched even if it doesn’t appear that they are required at the moment. We follow weather forecasts when there is a chance of snow and ice and remain in touch with our meteorologist and our crews in the field to monitor real time conditions and adjust our response plans accordingly. Many factors influence when we dispatch trucks, such as the timing of weather changes, the need to pre-treat roads with anti-icing chemical, and the need to have equipment quickly available in the hills on both the east and west sides of the city should a non-freezing situation shift dramatically to a freezing situation.

In addition, we routinely patrol and monitor major routes during adverse weather and treat as necessary to keep them open. We patrol known trouble spots when freezing temperatures are predicted - primarily bridges, overpasses, and critical locations that are more exposed and often reach freezing temperatures before other roadway surfaces. When problem locations are identified, appropriate crews are dispatched and treatments are applied.

12. Why doesn’t the City use more sand?

Because the benefits of sand and gravel are minimal, the City uses them sparingly. Crews apply sand and gravel only in isolated cases on streets when an abrasive material will help break up compacted snow and ice. Crews apply an amount sufficient to provide traction without wasting materials. Timing of the application is crucial, because traffic and wind will rapidly disperse abrasives. Gravel covered by more freezing rain and snow has no benefit. In addition, sand and gravel have no ice-melting properties. Proactive use of de-icer is more effective at clearing streets.

There are also negative environmental impacts such as air pollution and siltation of our rivers and streams. In addition, the high costs of purchase, storage, dispersal, cleanup, and disposal of the materials make sand and gravel a limited road treatment in snow and ice operations.

13. When will the City clean up the sand and gravel that they put down on the streets?

Street sweeper trucks pick up sand and gravel from treated streets as soon as possible after a snow and ice storm. Where sweepers can get to the curb, our first priority is bike lanes on major arterials. We understand the hazards posed to bicyclists by sand, gravel, and other debris in bike lanes, often forcing cyclists into a dangerous travel lane where some motorists are not yet ready to share the road.

Trucks cannot effectively pick up sand and gravel until temperatures are at 40 degrees. Ice on the roadway damages street sweeper trucks and results in an ineffective cleanup.

We recover 60-75% of the sand and gravel we lay down - we clean it, pile it, and re-use it. The rest of it is unrecoverable because it is dispersed onto grassy areas by traffic and wind and it is drained into catch basins by melting snow and ice.

Cleanup is a slow process. Our trucks put sand and gravel down at 20 mph and pick it up at 3 mph. In an average snow storm that lasts 3 to 4 days and drops 4 to 6 inches of snow over the whole city, crews use 2,000 cubic yards of sand, which would cover a football field more than a foot deep.

14. There is a lot of ice buildup around manhole covers. Driving over them is like driving over a large pothole. Can the City do something?

Sometimes during a severe snow and ice storm, humps of compacted snow and ice appear around manholes and utility vault covers, creating a pothole effect. These are caused by the warming and thawing action from underneath the manhole cover. The humps of snow and ice are hard to plow over and level out. Warmer and sunnier conditions will thaw them, making the snow soft, not compacted, and a lot easier to plow.

 

ANTI-ICING AND DE-ICING

1.     What do you mean by anti-icing and de-icing?

Anti-icing helps prevent ice from forming. De-icing helps melt ice that has already formed. Anti-icing is a pre-storm treatment that inhibits ice from forming and inhibits any snow or ice that does form from sticking to the pavement. Anti-icing is normally carried out after the evening peak traffic period or before the morning rush because frost does not usually affect the road surface until late evenings or early mornings. De-icing is a post-storm treatment that helps melt compacted snow and ice. It is usually a spot treatment at icy locations.

The City owns five anti-icing trucks. Each truck has a capacity of between 500 to 1,000 gallons. Crews apply 20 gallons per mile for pre-treatment to prevent ice from forming. Crews apply a heavier de-icing application of 30 gallons per mile for post-treatment to break the bond of packed snow and ice on the pavement surface.

The trucks apply jets of the chemical on the street. It is not a curb to curb application. Even streets that have been treated with this chemical may still be icy, especially near the curb.

This chemical, as well as salt, isn’t as effective in temperatures under 20 degrees. When temperatures fall below 17 degrees, we add magnesium chloride, which increases the effectiveness of the de-icing chemical and prevents sand from freezing in trucks. In temperatures well below freezing and with a wind chill factor that makes it even colder, our anti-icing and de-icing chemicals have a limited effect.

2.     Why do trucks spray liquid onto the street before a storm arrives?

It may seem dangerous to add a liquid to a street that might freeze, but the liquid is a chemical that actually inhibits ice from forming and inhibits any snow or ice that does form from sticking to the pavement. The liquid chemical called calcium magnesium acetate is a form of salt, and it helps prevent frost or black ice.

When there is a forecast of roadway frost or freezing temperatures that may cause road icing problems, crews may perform anti-icing on selected elevated structures like bridges and overpasses and known hazard areas in the hills and on critical locations like Marine Drive. A pre-storm treatment can be made as long as the storm doesn’t start out with above freezing temperatures and rain, washing the chemical away.

3.     Why do trucks spray liquid onto the street after a storm is over?

Crews monitor the temperature of the air and the road surface. The projected road surface temperature has a lot to do with the final treatment of a road. After plowing operations have finished and a street is left in a clear and wet condition, there is sometimes the danger of the moisture on the street re-freezing. A post-storm anti-icing treatment will inhibit ice from forming and inhibit any additional snow or ice from sticking to the pavement. This post-storm treatment is typically needed at night, since drops in temperature can be more dramatic at night than when the sun is shining.

4.     Why doesn’t the City use salt? What products does the City use on the roadways during a snow and ice storm?

The City uses a variety of environmentally safe road treatments that help contribute to safe driving conditions. Rock salt is not used because of environmental concerns – it is corrosive to our bridges and harmful to fish and wildlife in our rivers and streams. In addition, salt isn’t an effective treatment before snow or ice form, only after they form.

For anti-icing and de-icing, the City uses a liquid chemical that is a form of salt (calcium magnesium acetate), but, unlike rock salt, it is not corrosive. When spread on the road, it inhibits ice from forming, and it helps prevent snow or ice from sticking to the pavement surface.

This chemicals as well as salt, isn’t as effective in temperatures under 20 degrees. When temperatures fall below 17 degrees, we add magnesium chloride, which increases the effectiveness of the de-icing chemical and prevents sand from freezing in trucks. In temperatures well below freezing and with a wind chill factor that makes it even colder, our anti-icing and de-icing chemicals have a limited effect.

 

SIDEWALKS AND DRIVEWAYS

1.     My sidewalk is covered with snow and ice. Will the City clear it off?

The City does not remove snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent to private property. By City Code, property owners are responsible for their sidewalks and driveways, including the removal of snow, ice, slippery leaves, and other debris. Property owners are liable for personal injury and property damage caused by snow, ice, and other debris on sidewalks.

As soon as possible, please clear your sidewalks and driveways across pedestrian paths of snow and ice, leaves, and debris after a storm. Maintain at least a three-foot-wide path so pedestrians have a safe place to walk.

Property owners are also responsible for advising pedestrians of any danger of falling snow or ice from their buildings. Please make arrangements to post an advisory (sign or sandwich board) and eliminate the hazard.

2.     Why did the plow dump all the snow in my driveway? Will the City clear it off?

We are sorry for this inconvenience. While our plow crews try to minimize the amount of snow that gets plowed into driveways during a storm, it is impossible to plow without leaving a snow berm. When plowing streets, the snow plow doesn’t have a place to push snow except to the curb of the street. It’s important to have the snow pushed well back to the curb to facilitate drainage of melting snow to the catch basins and to minimize the narrowing of streets caused by the snow. As a result, your driveway may be blocked by a snow berm.

When you consider the large number of driveways in the city, it’s just too costly and time-consuming to use additional people and equipment to clear snow from driveways. Our primary focus is to clear and keep open more than 1,300 miles of major streets in a city with over 4,700 miles of streets.

As soon as possible, please clear away the snow berm from your driveway or entrance after a storm. Pile shoveled snow where it can be absorbed into the ground, not on the street and public right-of-way. 

 

DOWNTOWN OPERATIONS

1.     Will the City clear Downtown Portland streets of snow and ice?

The primary concern in snow events Downtown are keeping Streetcar and light rail tracks clear and operations running. Our next priority is to keep bus routes clear. The next priority is to keep vehicle lanes clear for non-transit vehicles.

In a minor snow event (1-6 inches), we will plow snow to the lower curbside and try not to push snow onto sidewalks.

In a heavy snow event (over 6 inches), we will plow snow into the vehicle lane for snow storage so that Streetcar and light rail can keep moving. First chance we get, we will remove the piled snow. We will shovel snow at intersections, transit stops and landings throughout the transit mall to keep curb ramps clear for pedestrians in the event our plow operations cover the ramps.

2.     Will the City clear Downtown Portland sidewalks of snow and ice?

The City will clear sidewalks of snow, ice, leaves and other debris adjacent to City-owned buildings. The City will not remove snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent to private property. By City Code, property owners are responsible for their sidewalks and driveways, including the removal of snow, ice, slippery leaves, and other debris. Property owners are liable for personal injury and property damage caused by snow, ice, and other debris on sidewalks.

As soon as possible, please clear your sidewalks and driveways across pedestrian paths of snow and ice, leaves, and debris after a storm. Maintain at least a three-foot-wide path so pedestrians have a safe place to walk.

Property owners are also responsible for advising pedestrians of any danger of falling snow or ice from their buildings. Please make arrangements to post an advisory (sign or sandwich board) and eliminate the hazard.

 

REGULATIONS, TICKETS AND TOWING

1.     Why did my car get ticketed or towed?

  • If ticketed, what violation were you cited for? Where did you park your vehicle?

Parking regulations and other road safety regulations remain enforceable during a winter storm. If you leave your vehicle parked in a metered parking space or other time zone during a winter storm, recover your vehicle as soon as possible when conditions improve. If you received a citation, follow the instructions on the back of it to resolve it or contest it with the County Circuit Court.

  • If towed, did you abandon your vehicle in a storm?

If you choose to drive, stay with your vehicle in a snow and ice storm. Any abandoned vehicle is subject to being cited and impounded. Any vehicle creating a safety hazard is subject to towing. To locate your vehicle, call Police Auto Records at 503-823-0044.

2.     My car was towed. Where is it?

To locate your vehicle, call Police Auto Records at 503-823-0044.

3.     Am I allowed to park on the street in a storm or when trucks are out plowing?

Parking regulations and other road safety regulations remain enforceable during a winter storm. There is no law that specifically prohibits parking on a snow plow route. But when snow beings to accumulate, we recommend that you find an alternate place to park. This enables snow plows to remove all of the snow from the street, curb to curb, without having to swerve around parked vehicles. When plowing is completed and the forecast does not call for additional snow, you may park your vehicle back on the street.

4.     What should I do if I’m driving, conditions get worse, and I can’t get home?

Develop an emergency plan with your family that includes an alternate way home. Identify where each member should go if getting home is not possible because of snow conditions.  Make sure there are provisions, food, and blankets at your contingency location.

If you are driving and visibility and conditions are getting worse rapidly, do not stop in a travel lane. Look for an opportunity to pull off the road into a safe parking area and wait for conditions to improve. If you cannot reach your home, move your vehicle off a major street or plow route onto a side street so that plows can completely open up major streets. If you become stuck or stranded in severe weather, stay with your vehicle for warmth and safety until help arrives. While you wait for help to arrive, open a window slightly for ventilation, run your motor sparingly, and use your emergency flashers.

5.     Are chains required on Portland streets when it snows?

The City does have the authority to close or restrict streets or require traction devices. During major events, traction devices are usually required for West Burnside and Sam Jackson streets.

We recommend that everyone buy chains, dry fit them, carry them in your vehicle, and use them. When ODOT issues a requirement to use chains on all State roads, remember that several highways run through Portland: 82nd Avenue, Powell Boulevard, Lombard Street, Barbur Boulevard, Sandy Boulevard (outer east side), and Macadam Avenue.

The City has identified Traction Advisory Areas like steep hills, bridges, and critical locations on both the west and east sides of the city that tend to freeze first. They’re slick spots in winter weather and warrant extra caution. You are advised to use chains or studded tires if you choose to drive on these streets and hills:

  • West Hills - NW Cornell, West Burnside, Sam Jackson, NW Skyline, Germantown Road, SW Hamilton, SW Bancroft
  • East Side - Mt. Scott, Mt. Tabor, Rocky Butte, SE Flavel, Marine Drive
  • Council Crest is the highest point in the metro area at 1,071 feet above sea level

A map of the City’s Chain Zones is available online. Go to www.portlandonline.com/transportation/wintertravel and click “Chain Zones Map.”

6.     Are studded snow tires allowed in Portland?

Yes, state law permits studded tires on Oregon highways and city streets. Studded tires are allowed only from November 1 through March 31. Drivers with studded tires on their vehicles in Oregon outside the permitted studded tire season can be charged with a Class C traffic violation, which currently carries a minimum $190 fine.

ODOT encourages drivers to consider other types of traction tires or chains because studded tires cause at least $42 million damage each year on city streets, county roads, and state highways. ODOT’s budget allows crews to repair only about $11 million of this damage each year.

Other types of traction tires are available. Traction tires that meet Rubber Manufacturers Association standards for use in severe snow conditions carry a special symbol on the tire sidewall showing a three-peaked mountain and snowflake. Research shows these tires provide better traction than studded tires when used on bare pavement and most winter driving conditions.

7.     Am I allowed to pass a snow plow?

There is no state or local law that prohibits you from passing a snow plow. However, passing a snow plow, particularly on the right side, can be extremely dangerous. The pavement conditions vary across the path you take to pass the plow truck. Passing on the right in low light and low visibility conditions can be extremely dangerous due to darkness and the snow cloud being kicked up by the snow plow.

 

WHAT TO DO BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER A STORM

1.     As a resident or business owner, what should I do before a winter storm?

The best advice we have for you is to be ready and stay informed. Every resident and business should be prepared for the worst possible conditions and take heed of severe weather warnings.

  • Essential equipment for everyone is a snow shovel, sand or de-icing granules for your sidewalk, and traction devices for your vehicle.
  • Monitor the catch basin nearest your property and keep the top of the grate clear of debris.
  • Have a backup plan for traveling if winter weather is going to make your commute dangerous.
  • Stay informed:  go to www.PublicAlerts.org for winter weather updates and check conditions before you venture out if bad weather is in the forecast.
  • It is helpful if you remove your cars from the street prior to snow plowing operations.
  • We encourage you to help your family members, friends and neighbors, especially seniors and people with disabilities. Help them get supplies like food or medications before a storm hits.

2.     As a resident or business owner, what should I do during a winter storm?

The best advice we have for you is to be ready and stay informed. Every resident and business should be prepared for the worst possible conditions and take heed of severe weather warnings.

  • If you don't have to venture out in bad weather, don't.
  • If you do venture out, have an alternate plan to get home.
  • Take transit if possible.
  • Avoid driving on snowy or icy streets.
  • Delay your trip until conditions improve.
  • Carry chains and an emergency kit in your vehicle to keep you safe and warm if you get stranded.
  • If you’re driving in the hills or other chain zones, be ready to pull over and put chains on.
  • Stay informed:  go to www.PublicAlerts.org for winter weather updates and check conditions before you venture out in bad weather.
  • The Portland Plow Map is available on www.PublicAlerts.org. You can enter your Portland address and find the plow routes and chain zones near you.
  • It is helpful if you remove your cars from the street during snow plowing operations.
  • We encourage you to help your neighbors, especially seniors and people with disabilities.
  • For the most up-to-date information on shelter or assistance, call 211info by dialing 2-1-1.

3.     As a resident or business owner, what should I do after a winter storm?

As soon as possible after a storm, clear your catch basins, sidewalks, and driveways across pedestrian paths of snow and ice, slippery leaves, and debris. Maintain at least a three-foot-wide path so pedestrians and transit users have a safe place to walk.

If you cannot clear a clogged catch basin yourself, notify 503-823-1700 that help is needed at a particular location.

Property owners are responsible for advising pedestrians of any danger of falling snow or ice from their buildings. Please make arrangements to post an advisory (sign or sandwich board) and eliminate the hazard.

Property owners are also responsible for clearing away the snow berm from driveways and entrances.  Pile shoveled snow where it can be absorbed into the ground, not on the street and public right of way.

 

WEATHER FORECAST AND OPERATIONS

1.     The forecasters are predicting snow. How is the City preparing?

The City is preparing to enact its Snow and Ice Plan. We are following national and local weather forecasts, we are talking with our contracted meteorologist, and we are in touch with our crews in the field to monitor real time conditions and adjust our plans accordingly.

We routinely patrol and monitor major routes during adverse weather and treat as necessary to keep them open. We patrol known trouble spots when freezing temperatures are predicted - primarily bridges, overpasses, and critical locations that are more exposed and often reach freezing temperatures before other roadway surfaces. When problem locations are identified, appropriate treatments are applied.

2.     There is snow on the ground. Is the City going to plow?

We will continue to patrol and monitor major routes and treat as necessary to keep them open. When problem locations are identified, appropriate treatments are applied, such as plowing, sanding, or de-icing.

Crews use snow plows when snow accumulates at a depth of at least one and one half inches (1 and ½) or more on the street surface. Snow plowing does not result in “bare wet” pavement because blades plow within one quarter inch (¼) of the pavement surface.

Also note that when the pavement is cold and dry and blowing snow is light and cold, no plowing is necessary.

3.     The forecast calls for freezing temperatures. Is the City treating the streets?

The City will continue to monitor road conditions and apply anti-icing chemical if necessary to help contribute to safe driving conditions.

A number of weather factors and conditions affect if and when the City decides to apply any road treatment. Primary factors that create challenging road conditions are cold air, wind, moisture, and locations of snow and ice. Moisture can be in the form of rain, snow, dew, frost, mist/fog or seepage from surrounding land. It’s the combination of cold temperatures and moisture that creates the chance of roadway frost or road icing problems.

Just because the general weather forecast says temperatures will fall below freezing, it does not mean conditions will cause ice to form on roads. There can be enough heat in the ground to keep the roads above freezing. Conversely, temperatures may stay above zero, but conditions can allow ice to form.

Temperatures can be well below zero, but if there is no moisture present, then ice will not form. When the air is very dry, even if temperatures are low, nothing will stick to the roads. There is no need for anti-ice application under those conditions.

4.     What is the difference between sleet and freezing rain?

Sleet is snow that melts in the sky and re-freezes before hitting the ground as ice pellets. Many people confuse this with hail - which is similar, but is not quite the same. Hail is from thunderstorms in the summer.

Freezing rain is snow that melts into water and doesn't re-freeze before hitting the ground. The ground temperature is below 32 degrees, so the rain will freeze on contact causing a glaze of ice. This is the worst type of precipitation to drive in since ice offers almost no traction at all. Freezing rain on bare pavement creates an ice rink on the roadway.

Freezing rain will look just like rain, so you can be caught off-guard when you suddenly hit a sheet of ice. You'll be able to tell when you see ice start to accumulate on tree branches, power lines or your car's windshield.

 

OTHER

1.     How will emergency vehicles get to my home?

Our emergency managers and crews are in constant contact with both Police and Fire during a winter weather event. Our designated plow routes do connect Police and Fire stations, hospitals, and emergency centers. Plows will be dispatched to assist emergency vehicle access into neighborhoods for emergency response.

2.     I remember the storm of December 2008. How did it compare with other snow storms in Portland?

The so-called Arctic Blast of December 2008 dropped 19 inches of snow on Portland. It was the snowiest December on record (since 1940 when records started being kept). In comparison, the whole winter season of 2008-09 dropped 23.9 inches of snow, the winter of 1968-69 dropped 34 inches, and the winter of 1949-50 dropped 44.5 inches. Portland’s average annual snowfall is 4.5 inches per year.

3.     How much does a major snow storm cost the City?

During a major snow and ice event, transportation crews switch to 12-hour shifts to ensure 24-hour coverage. A 12-hour shift typically costs the Bureau of Transportation $60,000 in labor and $40,000 in equipment.

4.     Where can I read the City’s snow and ice plan?

The City’s Snow and Ice Plan is online at www.portlandonline.com/transportation/wintertravel

 

5.     What if my water pipes freeze or break?

If pipes freeze, thaw plumbing lines safely with a hair dryer or heat lamp. Once the pipe has thawed, make sure to leave a little water running so the pipe doesn’t freeze again.

Do NOT open the water meter box near the curb. Opening the box could increase the chance of freezing water at the meter.

If pipes break, shut off your water and water heater. If you are unable to find your water shut-off valve, call Emergency Dispatch at 503-823-4874 for assistance.

It is the property owner’s responsibility to repair any broken pipes beyond the meter box, on the customer’s side.