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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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PBOT Travel Advisory: Heavy rains Monday night through Tuesday may lead to road hazards, street flooding

Get Home Safe logo for Stormy Weather

(Dec. 17, 2018) The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) warns the traveling public to be prepared for heavy rain that could create hazardous traveling conditions tonight and Tuesday. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a wind advisory for the Portland area from 6 p.m. Monday through 8 a.m. Tuesday with southerly 25 to 40 mph wind with gusts up to 45 mph. Higher gusts up to 55 mph are likely for exposed terrain such as the West Hills and Mount Scott. In addition, NWS has issued a flood watch from late Monday night into Wednesday afternoon, with 1.5 to 3 inches of rain expected in the Portland area.

The heaviest rain is expected Tuesday morning between 4 and 10 a.m., when up to 1 inch could fall in a two-hour period, enough to cause significant urban flooding.

PBOT asks the traveling public, residents and businesses to take steps to reduce hazards associated with these conditions. The best way to prevent streets from flooding is for everyone to help keep Portland's 58,000 storm drains clear before a storm arrives. Use a rake, shovel or broom and clear by standing in the sidewalk, not the street. Be aware of passing vehicles and check the drain again during and after a storm. It's also a good idea to clear inlets that lead stormwater to the green street planters in city streets. See more tips at www.portlandoregon.gov/stormdrains.

Heavy rain over a short period of time, in the range of 1 inch of rain in three-to-six hours, could overwhelm the city’s stormwater system and cause flooding, even in areas with clear storm drains. The Weather Service has compared the coming rainstorms to the events of Halloween 2015 and December 2015, when widespread urban flooding occurred in Portland. Heavy rain also can also vary significantly from one neighborhood to another within the city, so expect varying conditions throughout the city and the metropolitan area.

For weeks, PBOT's street sweeping and Leaf Day service have cleared leaves and other debris in preparation for fall and winter rainstorms. On Monday, PBOT crews cleared large storm drains in the West Hills that have a history of flooding and restocked sandbag three locations available to the public. PBOT will have extra crews working overnight and before dawn Tuesday, available to clear clogged storm drains, and to place road-closed barricades.

All travelers should be alert, regardless of how they are moving throughout the city:

  • When driving, go slowly. Use extra care and look for people walking or biking. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. If a storm knocks out power to traffic signals, treat intersections like an all-way stop and proceed with caution. The driver who stops first has the right of way to go first. 
  • 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. Barricades sometimes mark hazards that are not visible in the immediate area, but may be located hundreds of feet away, in order to direct traffic to alternate routes. Areas with standing water could have displaced manhole covers, leaving a 3-foot wide manhole uncovered and exposed, creating a hazard for anyone traveling in the area.
  • When biking, allow plenty of stopping distance and avoid road surfaces that are steel, painted or covered in leaves or water. Remember that puddles can disguise potholes.
  • When walking, 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 rainy conditions.
  • When taking public transit, check for service alerts before you go at trimet.org/alerts and portlandstreetcar.org 

See more travel tips on PBOT's website: http://bit.ly/rainytravel

PBOT crews are prepared to close streets and may set up detour routes for closures of long duration.

Residents are advised to notify PBOT of debris, mud, rocks, trees or branches blocking a street by calling our 24/7 maintenance dispatch hotline at 503-823-1700 or by email at pdxroads@portlandoregon.gov Property owners should keep sidewalks clear of small debris.

During a severe weather event, many people may report the same incident. Residents may find it more convenient to report using the PDX Reporter website at www.pdxreporter.org. To report standing water on a roadway, use the category Plugged Storm Drain/Inlet. To report rock or mudslides or other debris blocking a travel lane, use the Debris in Roadway category. We strongly encourage the public to submit photos with their service requests, because that helps PBOT crews assess changing conditions as they respond to reports.

Heavy rain can increase the risk of landslides, especially in steep areas in Northwest and Southwest Portland where slides have occurred in the past. Learn more about how to prevent or report landslides and review guidance for property owners.

Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) will continue to monitor the Sycamore gauge for Johnson Creek water levels. See the gauge at http://bit.ly/2ewbCdK. Bank full is 10 feet; flood stage is 11 feet. Because of BES restoration in the Foster Floodplain Natural Area, the risk to the Lents area is reduced and it takes about 13 feet for that area to be affected. But other areas along the creek may still experience flooding at 11 feet.

The last observed level was about 1.89 feet (12:30 p.m. on Dec. 17), and it is predicted to reach 11.33 feet by 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18. So, there is a possibility that Johnson Creek may have minor flooding, which could affect buildings and roads.

To help residents and business owners prepare for a flood emergency, sand and sandbags are available at no charge to anyone who wants to use them to protect their property from flood damage. PBOT crews confirmed Monday that the sites are stocked with sand and sand bags. No shovels are provided, so the public must bring their own. Locations are:

  • SE 88th Avenue just south of SE Holgate Boulevard in the parking lot at Lents Park. Enter parking lot at the bottom of the hill, and follow one-way traffic to the sand pile at the exit on the eastside of SE 88th Avenue;
  • SE 111th Avenue and Harold Street at the southeast corner of the intersection; and
  • SW 42nd Avenue and Vermont Street in the lower parking lot of Gabriel Park; enter Gabriel Park from Vermont.

If travelers encounter downed utility wires or power lines in the Portland area, they should call 911. Never touch a downed power line. In fact, do not even get close. Even if a power line is not sparking, it could still be energized. Remember that water and electricity do not mix. Never try to free lines or to remove tree limbs from lines by yourself.

In addition, to report power outages or downed lines, contact PGE at 503-464-7777 or Pacific Power at 877-508-5088. To report traffic signals out, call PBOT's 24/7 dispatch hotline at 503-823-1700. Please dial 911 for emergencies only.

The City recommends Portlanders monitor conditions where they are planning to travel, watch the forecast, and use www.PublicAlerts.org as their source for emergency updates. The site provides links to street closures, highway road conditions, transit schedules and service alerts, and other emergency information.

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The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is the steward of the City’s transportation system, and a community partner in shaping a livable city. We plan, build, manage and maintain an effective and safe transportation system that provides access and mobility. Learn more at www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation