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Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

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News Blog: Snow in the forecast? What you need to know to get home safe in Portland

get home safe

chains required

Everyone driving in Portland should carry snow chains and in hilly areas such as West Burnside, the City sometimes requires traction devices. (Photo by Dylan Rivera, Portland Bureau of Transportation.)

(December 2, 2016) Forecasters are still uncertain about the timing and amount of snow we could get in the Portland area on Monday morning, but it never hurts to be prepared! Safety is the Portland Bureau of Transportation's number one priority and, with that in mind, we've prepared some tips to make sure you get home safe in winter weather.

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 www.PublicAlerts.org for breaking news and information on major service disruptions. Visit http://bit.ly/snowicepdx to learn more about how PBOT responds to snow and ice events in Portland.


Safety tips for driving

The City of Portland’s Snow and Ice Plan discourages private vehicle use and encourages public transit use instead. But we understand some neighborhoods at high elevation may encounter snow or ice unexpectedly and everyone should be prepared for winter conditions. The Portland Bureau of Transportation offers these tips. See more at:http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/47307

Chains - your link to safety!

Buy chains, practice putting them on your car, carry them in your vehicle, and use them. You may need them unexpectedly, especially at areas higher than 500 feet above sea level in Portland. PBOT sometimes requires chains or traction devices on West Burnside and SW Sam Jackson Parkway.

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 or CB Radio.

Expect slippery sidewalks; clear your own as well

In a winter storm, the sidewalk in front of your neighbor’s house may be the slickest surface you encounter. PBOT applies anti-icer and uses snow plows to clear streets along bus routes, but property owners are responsible for ensuring safe passage on sidewalks.

Look out for people on bike or out walking

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

winter weather

Click here for an enlarged version of PBOT's Get Home Safe infographic.

Watch for black ice

Black ice can occur when roadways are not subjected to direct sunlight in freezing temperatures. It looks "black" because it is clear, not frosty. This makes it almost invisible to the naked eye. Black ice commonly forms on roads that wind around lakes and rivers, in tunnels, on overpasses and in highly shaded, rural areas. 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. The current contractual cost of a tow is $168. The cost to store a towed vehicle past the initial four hours is $25 per day.

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.

You may be towed on West Burnside and Sam Jackson Parkway

PBOT sets up chain-up areas in the shoulder heading uphill on West Burnside and SW Sam Jackson Parkway. They are set aside as a safe place for people to attach snow chains during a storm. Parking is not allowed in these areas and vehicles abandoned there are subject to towing.

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.


abandoned cars on burnside

People abandoned their cars on West Burnside during a snow storm in 2014. Most of these vehicles were towed to provide a safe chain-up area for drivers heading into the hills on West Burnside. (Photo by Dylan Rivera, Portland Bureau of Transportation.)

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.

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.

Biking in snow

Stay warm and dry. For more visibility, 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 and snow. 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, bicyclists have the right to take a full lane and/or use sidewalks which may be used if bike lanes are blocked by snow from snow plows.

Take 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 www.TriMet.org for bus and MAX light rail schedules. In snow and ice, plan for bus delays of 20 to 30 minutes. Know where your transit stops are before venturing out.