Residents, property owners and our business community are an essential part of helping the city rebound quickly after a storm. Emergency resources, winter weather basics for residents and businesses, and how the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) prepares for and responds to winter weather.
How to get 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. To report road hazards, call PBOT Maintenance emergency dispatch 24/7 at 503-823-1700
WINTER WEATHER CENTER Interactive map showing PBOT’s snow and ice routes, where we deploy salt, as well as real-time traffic, weather, road closure, and plow information.
PUBLIC ALERTS Sign up for emergency notifications via text, email, or phone from regional agencies including PBOT, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), TriMet, and Multnomah County.
ODOT’s TripCheckWeather and road conditions for area highways as well as U.S. and state routes in Portland such as:
- SW Macadam Avenue (OR-43)
- SW Barbur Boulevard (OR-99W)
- 82nd Avenue (OR-213)
- SE Powell Boulevard (US-26)
- N Lombard Street and outer SE Sandy Boulevard (US-30B).
MULTNOMAH COUNTY Bridge closures and county road closures.
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.
PBOT NOTIFICATIONS Choose the PBOT notifications you want to receive via email or text including news releases, traffic advisories, and winter weather information.
FAQ for Residents and 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.
- How do I plan ahead? See our GET HOME SAFE: Winter Travel Tipsfor 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.
- How do I stay informed? Stay informed and heed severe weather warnings. See our Emergency Information section above for latest road closures, chain advisories, and the best bookmarks and alerts to stay informed on winter weather.
CLEARING SIDEWALKS AND 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.
- 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 emergency dispatch is available 24/7 at 503-823-1700.
- 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.
- 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.
VEHICLES AND DRIVING
- Do I need to move my parked car out of the way of snow plows? If you live on a 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.
- Where are traction devices required? During major events, PBOT will require traction devices -- traction tires or chains -- for W Burnside Street (west of NW 23rd Avenue) and SW Sam Jackson Park Road. These requirements will be enforced by the Portland Police Bureau and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Police. Electronic message boards will indicate when chains are required. There will be areas set aside to chain your vehicle. Failure to use vehicle traction devices where required is a Class C traffic violation (ORS 815.140) with a presumptive fine of $170. PBOT advises the use of traction devices to get to or from our snow and ice routes and to use EXTREME CAUTION driving at higher elevations. Use this same caution in areas more prone to freezing first such as bridges, overpasses, and steep hills. Examples in the west hills include NW Cornell Road, NW Germantown Road, NW Skyline Boulevard, SW Bancroft Street, and SW Hamilton Street. Examples on the eastside include SE Flavel Road, Marine Drive, and the areas surrounding Mount Scott, Mount Tabor, and Rocky Butte. Check our Winter Weather Road Closures and Chain Advisories page for latest closures. See below for information on studded tires.
- 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) with a presumptive 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.
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.
- How does PBOT prepare? PBOT is in ready mode for winter weather from Nov. 1 to March 15. Early 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.
- 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.
- 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's 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.
SNOW AND ICE ROUTES
- What are PBOT’s 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 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 routes so that vehicles with front wheel drive or traction devices can get through. Depending on the severity of snow and ice, it can take up to three 12-hour shifts for our crews to sufficiently treat our routes with anti-icer. In a major snowfall, it can take our crews up to one 12-hour shift to plow our routes. See our Winter Weather Center for a full interactive map of our routes.
- Why doesn’t PBOT treat or plow local side streets and residential streets? PBOT does NOT treat or plow local side streets outside our 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 4,875 lane miles in the city. Without nonstop focus on our snow and ice routes -- about 1,833 lane miles -- we could risk impairing emergency response, public transit operations, and general mobility throughout the city. See our Get Home Safe: Winter Travel Tipsfor more information on how to plan ahead to get around in winter weather.
- Why doesn’t PBOT treat or plow state roads and highways in Portland? While PBOT covers its 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 those listed below. Go to ODOT’s TripCheck for the latest information on these routes.
- SW Macadam Avenue (OR-43)
- SW Barbur Boulevard (OR-99W)
- 82nd Avenue (OR-213)
- SE Powell Boulevard (US-26)
- N Lombard Street and outer SE Sandy Boulevard (US-30B)
- 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 snow and ice routes, PBOT dispatches plows or other equipment to assist.
ANTI-ICING, SALT, GRAVEL, AND PLOWS
- How does PBOT treat the roads? In winter weather, PBOT treats our roads with liquid anti-icing and deicing 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 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.
- Where does PBOT use anti-icing and deicing chemicals? PBOT uses liquid anti-icing chemicals on roads prone to icingsuch as exposed bridges and overpasses, hilly areas, and elsewhere throughout our snow and ice routes. For these applications, PBOT uses liquid magnesium chloride (MgCl2), a salt brine that lowers the freezing temperature of water. PBOT treats these routes before storms hit whenever possible. We monitor conditions closely because 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 deice, 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.
- Where does PBOT use road salt? PBOT uses road salton the sections of our snow and ice 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 anti-corrosive 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.
- Where does PBOT spread gravel? PBOT spreads quarter-ten gravel to provide extra traction and break up compacted snow and ice in locations where deicing 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.
- How much snow until PBOT starts plowing? PBOT plows snow after an accumulation of one-half 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 one-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.
- How does PBOT treat and plow downtown Portland? The streets in our downtown core and transit mall are part of our 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.
- How much equipment does PBOT have? For winter weather PBOT operates:
- 56 trucks equipped with snowplows and gravel spreaders
- 12 salt trucks equipped with snowplows
- 12 service trucks
- 7 anti-icing trucks
- 4 street-closure trucks
- 4 loaders
- 3 backhoes
- 2 road graders
- 1 enclosed bike-lane sweeper with plow, sander, and snow tires
- 1 enclosed bobcat with plow and sander
- 1 fuel truck.
- + PBOT also has agreements in place with the Portland Water Bureau, private plow companies, and regional agencies like the Seattle Department of Transportation to help out in bigger storms.
- 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 deicing, 2,700 cubic yards of road salt, and supplies of quarter-ten gravel across six locations, with capacity to store more.
- 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.
- 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 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.
Parking, towing, and road hazards in winter weather
- 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.
- 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 tow for abandoned vehicles preventing free passage is $206. This is in addition to the citation cost of a Class B traffic violation (ORS 819.100) with a presumptive fine of $270. Additional costs to store a towed vehicle longer than four hours is $28 per day. To locate an abandoned vehicle which was towed, call Police Auto Records at 503-823-0044.
- How do I report road hazards? PBOT Maintenance emergency dispatch is available 24/7 at 503-823-1700.
- 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 $206. This is in addition to the citation cost of a Class B traffic violation (ORS 819.100) with a presumptive fine of $270. Additional costs to store a towed vehicle longer than four hours is $28 per day. To recover 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.
- 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 arterial streets. 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.
- 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.