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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

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

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Safety Tips: Get Home Safe During Winter Weather

Avoid travel, delay your trip in bad weather

Winter weather in the Portland Metropolitan region can change quickly and without warning, making travel unpredictable. The intensity of a single snow and ice storm can vary significantly throughout the region because of the area's unique weather patterns and geography. The time of day the snow strikes also will influence winter travel.

Portland averages at least one significant snowfall annually. The next time it happens, be ready! Every resident and business should be prepared for the worst possible conditions to provide for your safety. Essential equipment includes snow chains, snow shovel, and sand or de-icing granules.

Delay your trip until conditions improve

The best advice for traveling in bad winter weather is not to travel at all, if you can avoid it. Wait until conditions improve before venturing out in winter weather. Allow the snow plows, sanding trucks, and other emergency vehicles to get out ahead of you to treat conditions. Allow yourself extra time to reach your destination. 

Check for breaking news and information on major service disruptions.


Take public transit

  • The City’s Snow and Ice Plan discourages private vehicle use and encourages mass transit use instead. In most Portland neighborhoods, residents are within four to six blocks of a transit stop or covered bus shelter. Some neighborhoods have great access to MAX light rail or the Portland Streetcar. To plan your commute by public transit, call 503-238-RIDE (7433) or visit for bus and MAX light rail schedules. Check for streetcar schedule information and service alerts. In snow and ice, plan for bus delays of 20 to 30 minutes. Know where your transit stops are before venturing out.


Safety tips for walking and biking

People who walk

  • Always cross at a crosswalk or at the corner. Look for oncoming vehicles before stepping down from the sidewalk and crossing the street. If possible, establish eye contact with drivers and continue looking left-right-left while crossing. Remember that oncoming vehicles may approach more quickly than anticipated and may have difficulty stopping at an intersection in icy conditions. Make sure you are seen: wear contrasting clothing (dark top and light bottom, or light top and dark bottom) and use retro-reflective materials when it’s dark outside. Dress warmly. Wear devices you can put on your shoes that act much like tire chains for your shoes.


People who bike

  • Stay warm and dry. For more visibility at night, wear bright clothing, an orange vest, or use reflective tape. Use front and rear bicycle lights. Lights are required by law when riding after dark - a white light visible at least 500 feet to the front, and a red light or reflector visible at least 600 feet to the rear. Brake early and often. Avoid some painted and steel road surfaces. Steel plates, sewer covers, grates and other metal can be very slick in the rain. Stay out of puddles and off of black ice. Slow down, give yourself longer stopping distances, and keep a firmer grip on your handlebars. Do not pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
  • Remember, people riding bicycles have the right to take a full lane and/or use sidwalks, whcih may be used if bike lanes are blocked by snow from snow plows.

Watch for street hazards

  • Traffic signals can be twisted to face the wrong direction or lose power during a storm. Treat all intersections with malfunctioning signals as all-way stops and use extreme caution. Fallen trees, mud from landslides, or other debris can block streets and sidewalks. Report a street hazard at 503-823-1700. 


Safety tips for people driving

Chains - your link to safety!

  • Buy chains, practice fitting 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), McLoughlin Boulevard and Macadam Avenue.


Carry an emergency weather kit

  • Have a well-stocked emergency kit in your vehicle to keep you safe and more comfortable during long waits. Your kit should include chains, shovel, bag of sand, battery jumper cables, first aid kit, basic tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver and knife), blanket, extra clothing (hats, socks, boots, mittens), flashlight, and a cell phone.


Look out for people walking or biking

  • Be watchful for pedestrians and bicyclists who are also trying to get around in hazardous, low visibility conditions. Share the Road safely and responsibly.


Watch for black ice

  • Black ice is defined as ice that remains on roadways that are not subjected to direct sunlight. Black ice commonly forms on roads that wind around lakes and rivers, in tunnels, on overpasses and in highly shaded, rural areas. Black ice is almost invisible to the naked eye. Be especially careful when driving or riding into shaded areas, on bridges and overpasses, and on infrequently traveled roads. Slow down during your approach.


You are responsible for your vehicle

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. To locate your vehicle, call Police Auto Records at 503-823-0044.  If you are driving and visibility and conditions are getting worse rapidly, do not stop in a travel lane. Any vehicle creating a safety hazard is subject to towing. 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.

Recover your vehicle as soon as possible

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 receive a citation, follow the instructions on the back of it to resolve it or contest it with the County Circuit Court.

Drive safely on wet and icy roads

Travel gently - drive, turn, and brake slowly. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you. 

Do not drive through standing water or around barricades on flooded streets. Turn around safely. The wake from your vehicle can cause public and private property damage and flood houses and businesses. Disobeying a barricade that has a street closure or other message sign on it is a Class B violation according to Oregon Vehicle Code and may result in a $360 fine.

Drive slowly and cautiously over wet leaves; they can create a slick driving surface.

Brake gently to avoid skidding. If you do find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. This procedure, known as "steering into the skid," will bring the back end of your car in line with the front.

Hydroplaning happens when the water in front of your tires builds up faster than your car's weight can push it out of the way. The water pressure causes your car to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between your tires and the road. At this point, your car can be completely out of contact with the road, and you are in danger of skidding or drifting out of your lane, or even off the road.

To avoid hydroplaning, keep your tires properly inflated, maintain good tread on your tires and replace them when necessary, slow down when roads are wet, and stay away from puddles. Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.

If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the gas until the car slows and you can feel the road again. If you need to brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally; the car's computer will mimic a pumping action, when necessary.

Driving in snow

If you get stuck in snow, do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper. Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car. Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel, or de-icing granules in the path of the wheels to help get traction. Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you're in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.

Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other travelers. Keep your lights and windshield clean. Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.

Do not pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.


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