While East coast braces for Sandy, Portland prepares for snow and ice

While East coast braces for Sandy, Portland prepares for snow and ice »Play Video
KATU photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. - We may not be dealing with a super storm here on the West Coast, but what's happening thousands of miles away is a good reminder about how bad weather can impact our lives.

"It is an enormous storm and I think a testament to the fact that the weather has changed and we don't know exactly how it's going to change anywhere in the United States," Mayor Sam Adams said during a Monday press conference to talk about Portland's preparation for winter storms.

Every year, emergency crews spend a day at the city's maintenance yard to make sure plows, sanders and other equipment are in working order. This year, Monday, Oct. 29 was the day. Even though forecasters are predicting a mild winter, the city is preparing for the worst.

"The National Weather Services says that we are shifting from La Nina to El Nino conditions," Adams said. "And that means potentially lower precipitation and higher temperatures than normal. But we're not counting on those weather forecasts."

The mayor also took the time to remind folks that it isn't just the weather that can create problems. He said coming up on Dec. 1, the city will be sending out information to every household telling folks where they can go in the event of an earthquake.

"This weekend we had a major earthquake on the coast of Canada and we need to be reminded to be prepared here," Adams said. "The experts tell us it's not if, it's just a matter of time when we will have our own earthquake here."

The mayor, along with other officials at the press conference, called on folks to start now, not later, on getting an emergency plan in place.

That means doing things like having an emergency kit in your home (and also one in your vehicle), making sure you have food and water on standby and making sure your vehicle is in good working order. It's also a good idea to have a battery-powered AM/FM radio and a vehicle charger for your cell phone.

STORM RESOURCES

  • PublicAlerts.org - sign up to get real-time updates during inclement weather
  • Call 511 for current road conditions
  • Call 211 for warming center information
  • Call (503) 823-1700 for help clearing storm drains or to report landslide dangers
And the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) asked folks to take it easy when hitting the road this winter - drive for the conditions, leave plenty of distance between you and other vehicles and give snow plows the space they need.

"Make sure when those plow and snow trucks are out there you don't pass them on the right or follow too close," said Ted Miller, Maintenance Manager for ODOT's Region 1. "They're plowing snow and spreading sand and you need to give them room to do that. And it's a lot safer that way."

Also, make sure you have traction devices ready because the city can't get to every road - not for a lack of trying but because there are a whopping 4,700 miles of streets in Portland. The city can only cover so much and their main focus is on keeping the buses and MAX trains moving, so those routes (there are over 500 of them in the city) get priority.

"I'm still surprised at how many people, those who live in the higher elevations especially, call us during an inclement weather event and want to know why we haven't plowed the street in front of their house," Adams said. "We cannot plow every street. We plow and sand and de-ice and anti-ice about 1,300 miles of streets and roads."

TriMet said new this year is that there are a number of buses with drop-down chains that can be used on the fly while a bus is in service. There have also been improvements to the MAX system.

On a final note, the mayor is asking folks to keep their storm drains clear of leaves to keep flooding to a minimum. The city does work on this but with 55,000 storm drains throughout Portland, they can only focus on certain areas. So they need your help.

If you are unable to clear a storm drain (perhaps you cannot reach it safely or have a disability that prevents you from doing so), you can call the city at (503) 823-1700 for assistance.