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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

More Contact Info

Winter Weather Basics & FAQ

GHS

WINTER WEATHER ALERTS

Create a new account or login here if you have already subscribed to PBOT notifications. Then choose the PBOT notifications you want to receive via email or text including news releases, traffic advisories and winter weather information. 


EMERGENCY INFORMATION

What you need to know now in the event of a winter storm.

  • ROAD CLOSURES
    Current PBOT winter weather road closures and chain advisories. 

  • WINTER WEATHER CENTER 
    Interactive map showing PBOT’s priority snow and ice routes, where we deploy salt, as well as real-time traffic, weather, road closure and plow information.

  • PUBLIC ALERTS 
    Stay Informed. Sign up for emergency notifications via text, email or phone from regional agencies including PBOT, ODOT, TriMet and Multnomah County.

  • GET HOME SAFE: Winter Travel Tips 
    How to plan ahead for winter weather, plus essential tips for taking transit, walking, biking and driving in winter weather.

  • REPORT ROAD HAZARDS
    24/7 to PBOT Maintenance Dispatch at 503-823-1700

  • PBOT NOTIFICATIONS 
    Choose the PBOT notifications you want to receive via email or text including news releases, traffic advisories and winter weather information. 

  • PBOT on Social Media 
    Visit PBOT on Facebook or follow @PBOTInfo on Twitter for news, alerts, road closures, advisories and more during winter weather.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

FOR RESIDENTS & BUSINESSES

Preparation

Clearing Sidewalks + Other Hazards

Vehicles + Driving

PBOT RESPONSE TO WINTER WEATHER

Preparation

Snow + Ice Routes

 Anti-Icing + Salt + Gravel + Plows

 Parking + Towing

AFTER THE STORM


FAQ: FOR RESIDENTS & BUSINESSES

Residents, property owners and our business community are an essential part of helping the city rebound quickly after a storm. Clearing sidewalks and other pathways of snow and ice is vital for everyone who relies on public transit in winter weather, as well as for seniors and people with disabilities. Make sure your family and your fellow employees have a plan to get home safe and that you check on vulnerable neighbors who may need assistance, supplies or medication.

PREPARATION

How do I plan ahead?

See our GET HOME SAFE: Winter Travel Tips for how to plan before winter hits and how to travel in severe weather. See our Emergency Information above for where to find the latest road closures, chain advisories and the best bookmarks and alerts to keep you up-to-date on winter weather. [back to top]

How do I stay informed?

Stay informed and heed severe weather warnings. See our Emergency Information section above latest road closures, chain advisories and the best bookmarks and alerts to stay informed on winter weather. [back to top]

CLEARING SIDEWALKS + OTHER HAZARDS 

What do I have to do to clear sidewalks and driveways?

By city code, property owners, tenants and businesses MUST clear their sidewalks and the path across their driveway as soon as possible after a storm. PBOT does NOT remove snow and ice from sidewalks. Be prepared with ice melt to treat your sidewalks and driveways before winter weather hits and keep a snow shovel at the ready to clear a path at least 3-feet wide as soon as possible after a storm. [back to top]

What do I have to do to clear my catch basins?

Keep your catch basins clear of snow, ice, slippery leaves and debris whenever possible. To report blocked catch basins you cannot clear, PBOT Maintenance Dispatch is available 24/7 at 503-823-1700. [back to top]

What do I have to do to warn the public of overhead hazards?

Property owners, tenants and businesses MUST warn the public about the danger of falling snow, ice or other debris around your property. Be prepared to post an advisory sign or sandwich board and eliminate the hazard as soon as possible. [back to top]

What if my water pipes break or freeze?

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

If your pipes freeze, thaw plumbing lines safely with a hair dryer or heat lamp. Leave a small amount of water running so the pipe doesn’t re-freeze.

DO NOT open the water meter box near the curb as this could increase the chance of freezing water at the meter. More tips from the Portland Water Bureau. [back to top]

VEHICLES + DRIVING

Do I need to move my car out of the way of snow plows?

If you live on a priority snow and ice route, move your car off-street whenever possible. Also be prepared that snow berms may block your car or driveway. If you need to remove these berms be sure to shovel snow where it can be absorbed in the ground, not in the street, sidewalk, or other pathways. [back to top]

Where are traction devices required?

During major events, PBOT will require traction devices -- traction tires or chains -- for West Burnside Street (west of Northwest 23rd Avenue) and Southwest Sam Jackson Park Road. These requirements will be enforced by the Portland Police Bureau and OHSU Police. Posted signs will indicate when chains are required. Electronic messaging and chain-up areas will be provided. Failure to use vehicle traction devices where required is a Class C traffic violation (ORS 815.140) carrying a $170 penalty.

PBOT advises the use of traction devices to get to/from our priority snow and ice routes and to use EXTREME CAUTION driving at higher elevations as well as those areas prone to freeze first such as bridges, overpasses, and steep hills. Examples in the west hills include Northwest Cornell Road, Northwest Germantown Road, Northwest Skyline Boulevard, Southwest Bancroft Street and Southwest Hamilton Street. Examples on the east side include Southeast Flavel Road, Marine Drive and the areas surrounding Mt. Scott, Mt. Tabor and Rocky Butte.

Check our Winter Weather Road Closures and Chain Advisories page for latest closures. See below for information on studded tires.

Check ODOT’s TripCheck for weather and road conditions for area highways as well as U.S. and state routes in Portland such as:

- Southwest Macadam Avenue (OR-43)
- Southwest Barbur Boulevard (OR-99W)
- Northeast and Southeast 82nd Avenue (OR-213)
- Southeast Powell Boulevard (US-26)
- North Lombard Street and outer Southeast Sandy Boulevard (US-30B)

 [back to top]

When can I use studded tires?

Oregon law permits the use of studded tires from Nov. 1 to April 1. Use of studded tires outside of these dates is a Class C traffic violation (ORS 815.160) and carries a fine of $170.

PBOT and ODOT encourage drivers to consider other types of traction tires because of the costly damage studded tires inflict on our roads. Non-studded traction tires that have passed industry standards for winter traction performance are entitled to display a three-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol on their sidewalls. Research shows these tires provide better traction than studded tires when used on bare pavement and in most winter-driving conditions. [back to top]


FAQ: HOW PBOT PREPARES AND RESPONDS TO WINTER WEATHER

PBOT is ready to respond to weather emergencies 24/7. A single storm can produce wildly different road conditions throughout the city based on timing, weather patterns and geography. Moisture and cold temperature combine in myriad ways to create hazardous conditions on our roads. Here’s how we prepare and respond in all conditions.

PREPARATION

How does PBOT prepare?

PBOT is in ready mode for winter weather from Nov. 1 to Mar. 15. Early in the Fall, we clean, test, and repair all essential equipment and review any changes to our snow and ice plan for the year. We also make sure our crews have practiced using winter equipment, checked their routes for changes or hazards in the right of way, and are generally ready for any weather scenario. See our Winter Weather Center for an interactive map of our snow and ice routes and where we deploy salt. [back to top]

How does PBOT monitor weather forecasts?

PBOT works with a contracted meteorologist, follows national and local weather forecasts, and talks with crews on the ground monitoring real-time conditions. Portland’s average annual snowfall is 4.5 inches per year. See our Winter Weather Center for an interactive map of our snow and ice routes and for real-time weather and road closure information. [back to top]

Who takes the lead during winter weather?

PBOT is the lead agency for snow and ice response in Portland. When there is the threat of snow or ice, PBOT moves to the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS) model. In extreme storm events, the City Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) may be activated to respond to the event in coordination with other public agencies. See our Winter Weather Center for our snow and ice routes, live traffic cameras, as well as real-time road closure, weather and plow information. More resources above under Emergency Information. For information on winter weather warming shelters, dial 2-1-1 toll free or visit 211info.org. [back to top]

SNOW + ICE ROUTES

What are PBOT’s priority snow and ice routes?

In the event of winter weather, PBOT works to keep vital transit lines and emergency routes open in winter weather. These priority snow and ice routes are the most critical for our city’s police and fire stations, hospitals, schools, frequent bus routes, the downtown core and major business districts -- about a third of our entire street grid. PBOT’s mission is to provide at least one passable lane in each direction on these priority routes so that vehicles with front-wheel drive or traction devices can get through. In a major snowfall, it can take our crews up to 12 hours to cover these priority routes once. See our Winter Weather Center for a full interactive map of our priority routes. [back to top]

Why doesn’t PBOT treat or plow local side streets and residential streets?

PBOT does NOT treat or plow local side streets outside our priority snow and ice routes. PBOT does NOT treat or plow any street with a grade steeper than 14% because of the danger to our crews and equipment. PBOT maintains over 4,850 lane miles in the city. Without nonstop focus on our priority routes -- about 1,750 lane miles -- we could risk impairing emergency response, transit operations and general mobility throughout the city. See our Get Home Safe: Winter Travel Tips for more information on how to plan ahead to get around in winter weather. [back to top]

Why doesn’t PBOT treat or plow state roads and highways in Portland?

While PBOT covers its priority snow and ice routes, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) handles interstate highways as well as U.S. and state routes in Portland such as:

- Southwest Macadam Avenue (OR-43)
- Southwest Barbur Boulevard (OR-99W)
- Northeast and Southeast 82nd Avenue (OR-213)
- Southeast Powell Boulevard (US-26)
- North Lombard Street and outer Southeast Sandy Boulevard (US-30B)

Go to ODOT’s TripCheck for the latest information on these routes. 

[back to top]

How do emergency vehicles get to the streets PBOT doesn’t treat or plow?

PBOT and emergency services are in constant contact during winter weather. If emergency vehicles need assistance to access local and residential streets outside our priority snow and ice routes, PBOT dispatches plows or other equipment to assist. [back to top]

ANTI-ICING + SALT + GRAVEL + PLOWS

How does PBOT treat the roads?

In winter weather, PBOT treats our roads with liquid anti-icing and de-icing chemicals, spreads road salt and gravel, plows, and removes snow from the road. PBOT takes care to monitor air and road surface temperatures around the city, among many factors, to determine the best combination of these approaches on our priority routes. The intensity of one storm and the amount of accumulation can differ widely throughout the city because of altitude, temperature and geographical differences. See our Winter Weather Center for our snow and ice routes, where we deploy salt, and to track our equipment in real time. [back to top]

Where does PBOT use anti-icing and de-icing chemicals?

PBOT uses liquid anti-icing chemicals on roads prone to icing such as exposed bridges and overpasses, hilly areas and elsewhere throughout our priority snow and ice routes. For these applications, PBOT uses liquid magnesium chloride (MagCl), a salt brine that lowers the freezing temperature of water. PBOT treats these routes before storms hit whenever possible. We monitor conditions closely since above-freezing temperatures combined with rain could wash away the treatment before a winter storm. Our crews apply jets of this liquid in the travel lanes after the evening peak traffic period and before the morning rush. After storms, as well as at night when temperatures drop, PBOT uses a heavier application of these chemicals to de-ice, helping break the bond of packed snow and ice on the pavement.

See our Winter Weather Center for a map of our anti-icing routes and to watch our equipment in real time. [back to top]

Where does PBOT use road salt?

PBOT uses road salt on the sections of our priority routes most prone to closure during severe winter storms – up to 99 lane miles, depending on conditions. These tend to be steep hills, vital routes for our hospitals and business districts, as well as roads that our neighboring counties use to connect to Portland. Our road salt has anticorrosive additives to protect vehicle wear and tear. We plan with our partners in the Bureau of Environmental Services to minimize the impact of salination to our rivers and streams.

See our Winter Weather Center route map for where we spread road salt and to watch our equipment in real time. [back to top]

Where does PBOT spread gravel?

PBOT spreads quarter-ten gravel to provide extra traction and break up compacted snow and ice in locations where de-icing is less effective. PBOT uses gravel sparingly because of its negative impacts to our environment and the costly, time-consuming work of cleaning it up after a storm. For information on how gravel is cleaned up, see our After the Storm section below. [back to top]

How much snow until PBOT starts plowing?

PBOT plows snow after an accumulation of half an inch or more. PBOT plows snow into berms curbside, not into the center of the street. This way, PBOT minimizes road hazards and allows for the greatest amount of coverage and visibility for all road users, including pedestrians. Our crews plow to within a half inch of the pavement itself, to prevent damage to the road and our equipment. If the pavement is dry and blowing snow is light and cold, plowing is not always necessary. [back to top]

How does PBOT treat and plow downtown Portland?

The streets in our downtown core and transit mall are part of our priority snow and ice routes. By city code, property owners, tenants and businesses downtown, same as throughout the city, are responsible for keeping their sidewalks and pathways across driveways clear from snow, ice and other hazards. Property owners are also responsible for warning the public of the dangers of falling snow or ice around their property. See our Residents and Businesses section on how best to prepare for winter weather and keep our city moving. [back to top]

How much equipment does PBOT have?

For winter weather PBOT operates 56 trucks equipped with snow plows and gravel spreaders, 7 anti-icing trucks, 6 salt trucks, 12 service trucks, 4 street closure trucks, 1 road grader, and 1 fuel truck. We also have agreements in place with the Portland Water Bureau, private plow companies and regional agencies like Seattle DOT to help out in bigger storms. [back to top]

How much salt, gravel and anti-icer does PBOT have?

PBOT is ready with 40,000 gallons of liquid magnesium chloride for anti-icing and de-icing, 700 tons of road salt, and supplies of quarter-ten gravel across six locations, with capacity to store more. [back to top]

Where is PBOT’s equipment during a storm?

PBOT pre-stages our equipment and supplies throughout the city to respond as quickly as possible when winter weather hits. See our Winter Weather Center to track our equipment in real time during the storm. [back to top]

What do we do when we see PBOT crews?

Give PBOT crews time and space to do their work in winter weather. Our crews drive equipment in low visibility and extreme weather. DO NOT cut in front of them or try and pass them at any time. Even if they are going slow, you will find the road much clearer and safer behind a snowplow than in front!

Don’t assume you know what their job is. Our crews perform multiple jobs with their trucks, not just plowing. If you see a truck with its plow up, they may be travelling between points on their route, refueling, responding to an emergency or otherwise doing tasks to keep the city moving during winter weather.

Thank our PBOT crews. Our Maintenance division works around the clock to keep our priority routes clear, respond to emergencies, close dangerous roads and help our city keep moving in winter weather. Visit PBOT on Facebook or follow @PBOTInfo on Twitter to thank them for their work. [back to top]

PARKING + TOWING

How does PBOT enforce parking during a storm?

PBOT still enforces parking regulations in winter weather. However, some severe storms hit forecasters and Portland commuters by surprise. In these cases, PBOT may implement a parking amnesty in downtown metered districts so people can take transit home, then recover their vehicles after a specified time. Subscribe to PBOT Notifications for alerts via text or email of news releases, traffic advisories and winter weather alerts such as parking amnesty announcements. For more on ticketing and towing, see our After the Storm section. [back to top]

What happens to vehicles abandoned in the road?

Any vehicle creating a safety hazard is subject to citation, tow and impound. The cost of a citation and tow for abandoned vehicles preventing free passage is $201. Additional costs to store a towed vehicle longer than four hours is $27/day. To locate an abandoned vehicle which was towed, call Police Auto Records at 503-823-0044. [back to top


FAQ: AFTER THE STORM

How do I report road hazards?

PBOT Maintenance Dispatch is available 24/7 at 503-823-1700. [back to top]

What if I my vehicle was cited or towed?

Parking and road safety regulations are enforceable during a winter storm. Any vehicle creating a safety hazard is subject to citation, tow and impound. See our Get Home Safe: Winter Travel Tips for PBOT’s best advice for planning ahead for winter weather travel to avoid getting you or your vehicle stuck.

The cost of a citation and tow for abandoned vehicles preventing free passage is $201. Additional costs to store a towed vehicle longer than four hours is $27/day.

To locate an abandoned vehicle which was towed, call Police Auto Records at 503-823-0044.

Follow the instructions on your citation to contest or resolve it with the County Circuit Court.

In some severe storms, PBOT may institute a parking amnesty in downtown metered districts to encourage people to take public transit home. For parking amnesty alerts, check PBOT News or subscribe to PBOT Notifications via text or email. [back to top]

How long does it take to remove gravel?

PBOT deploys street sweepers to pick up gravel from affected streets as soon as possible after a snow and ice event. Ice on the roadway can damage these vehicles so PBOT deploys our sweepers once there’s a thaw and temperatures are above 40 degrees.

PBOT’s first priority for gravel removal is bike lanes on major arterials. Gravel and other debris are more hazardous to cyclists and other vulnerable road users than they are to vehicles.

Cleanup is slow. PBOT sweepers travel at only 3 mph to pick up gravel, a fraction of the speed from when we lay it down. Please be patient as we work our way through our routes.

We recover as much as 75% of the gravel we lay down for reuse. [back to top]

Why are manhole covers worse than the rest of the road?

During severe snow and ice storms, humps of compacted snow and ice may appear around manholes and utility vault covers because of continued warming and thawing from below. These are hard to plow over and level out. Drive carefully. It may take warmer, sunnier conditions to thaw these areas. [back to top]