Area experts give advice to get through a winter storm

If weather forecasters are correct, the Portland metro area is about to get hit with a winter storm featuring high winds and snow. As of 9:45 a.m. Thursday, schools were quickly announcing early releases, including the West Linn-Wilsonville and Lake Oswego school districts.

According to news partner KOIN Local 6, a winter storm warning for Portland and Vancouver went into effect at 10 a.m. and will continue through 10 a.m. Friday. There is also a winter weather advisory for the Oregon coast until midnight and a blizzard warning for the gorge through 4 a.m. Friday.

According to KOIN 6, flurries are possible anytime in the Portland-Vancouver metro area. But snow was predicted to fall during the early morning hours Thursday for areas south of Salem, then to expand north to Salem by about noon. Significant accumulations of 2 to 7 inches are possible.

The snow zone is expected to continue expanding, moving north to about the Portland-Vancouver metro area during Thursday afternoon.

“I say ‘about’ because it’s not totally settled how far north the snow actually goes, but the trend is to bring it more and more north as the day goes on,” said Riley O’Connor, KOIN 6 morning meteorologist. “So, I believe metro area snow accumulation will range from as little as nothing to as much as 2 to 5 inches, and that may impact travel during the afternoon and evening hours. East wind could also create areas of blowing snow.”

On Friday and Saturday, another round of moisture is predicted to move in, starting Friday evening and continuing into Saturday. O’Connor said he sees snow developing again by Friday evening for Portland and Vancouver with snow and rain or possible freezing rain in the central Willamette Valley. Saturday may start dry, but light rain may develop over areas south of Portland with an afternoon round of snow or freezing rain in the metro area.

On the road

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, motorists should use extreme caution this weekend if bad weather makes for treacherous roads in the Portland area.

Although uncertainty remains, snow, sleet, freezing rain and wind could create serious problems for travelers in Portland, the Willamette Valley, the Coast Range and the Columbia River Gorge.

Travelers should stay up to date on the weather forecast and make sure to get safely situated before bad weather hits. This is especially true for storms forecast to hit near the end of the school day or the start of commute times. Planning ahead can help avoid the gridlocked roads that happen when travelers delay their travel until after the start of a storm.

If severe winter conditions arrive, ODOT plans to deploy all available tools in its winter arsenal, including plows, sanders and deicers, as appropriate.

Here are some tips for travelers should an icy winter storm strike.

·No one can safely drive on ice. If roads get icy, consider not driving or delaying your trip until the weather warms and the ice thaws.

·In ice or snow, allow plenty of stopping distance and watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists because stopping distances are so much longer.

·ODOT sand trucks, plows and deicer trucks can't clear roads clogged with traffic. The more traffic stays off the road, the quicker roads can be treated.

·Consider leaving the driving to the professionals and taking mass transit. Consider walking, riding a bike, working from home or taking the day off until the roads are clear.

·Don't abandon a vehicle in heavy traffic. This delays emergency responders and prevents plows and other maintenance equipment from getting through. 

Driving on ice is never a safe choice. The safest thing to do is stay off the road, according to ODOT officials.

For updated information about highway work and current travel information throughout Oregon, visit or call the Oregon road report at 511 or 1-800-977-6368.

Power outages

With storms beginning to brew across the Northwest, Portland General Electric announced Thursday morning that now is the best time to prepare for weather-related power outages and other events. Portland General Electric teamed up with the American Red Cross on its “Prepare!” initiative, aimed at helping individuals, businesses and communities prepare for emergencies of all sizes. Prepare!, a new multiyear initiative, provides a variety of tools and resources that make simple work of creating emergency kits and putting together a plan in case of an emergency.

"PGE employees are prepared to swing into action if a winter storm hits, and we want our customers to be ready and safe too," said Jim Piro, PGE president and CEO. "Together with Red Cross, we're working to help families and businesses put plans in place to have food, water, light and a heat source available if a power outage were to occur due to a severe winter storm or natural disaster."

Be storm ready

To help prepare for power outages that may occur, PGE customers can visit to learn how to put together an outage kit and review tips and ideas. You can also check out its preparedness blog, which covers topics such as safety tips, best picks for emergency food items and more.

PGE recommends all customers have a basic outage kit on hand that includes a flashlight, fresh batteries, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, a battery-powered alarm clock and a manual can opener. A cellphone car charger for cellphones or a corded, nonelectric phone at home is also important.

Prepare for home emergencies

PGE customers are also encouraged to take the "Pledge to Prepare" through the Red Cross at Taking the online pledge offers access to tools and resources to help families create their own disaster plan. They can also download earthquake and first aid mobile apps and purchase ready-made disaster supply kits.

Outage kit for when the power goes out

If a power outage occurs, you can be prepared by having a kit together to meet your basic needs until we’re able to restore power. An outage kit is also a great first step toward a more comprehensive emergency kit for use in a crisis or natural disaster.

A basic outage kit should include:

·Hand-crank or battery-powered flashlight and radio

·Battery-powered clock

·Extra batteries (change them periodically, even unused batteries lose power over time)

·Manual can opener

·Cellphone car charger if you depend on a cellphone, and/or a corded, nonelectric phone for home

Other handy items to have:

·Bottled water

·Sanitary water containers (if you rely on electricity to pump water)


·Disposable plates and utensils

·Extra blankets or sleeping bags

Prepare for workplace emergencies

To be ready for outages and emergencies at work and help keep business running, businesses, schools and other organizations can also complete a Red Cross "Ready Rating" assessment online at This self-paced program allows organizations to rate their current level of preparedness and suggests areas for improvement. Any amount of time without electricity can affect a business.

Here are some tips on how to prepare for outages, minimize disruptions and protect your equipment.

·Walk through a response plan with key employees to make sure you are ready if your business loses power.

·Locate electrical supply panels and know how to shut off power.

·Identify equipment power switches.

·Make sure you and employees have an outage plan for all critical equipment.

·If you have an emergency lighting system, make sure it's in good working order.

·Create and maintain an outage kit that includes the following items:

  • Hand-crank or battery-powered flashlights and radio
  • Battery-powered clock
  • Car adaptors/chargers for cellphones and laptop computers
  • Emergency phone numbers, including PGE outage numbers
  • Extra batteries
  • Know what to do if the lights go out

    If an outage occurs, PGE recommends first checking the circuit breaker or fuse box. If breakers or fuses are OK, call PGE. Report power outages by calling 503-464-7777. Mobile phones can also be registered for two-way texting with PGE to report an outage and request a text update. Customers can also visit for outage updates. Look outside to see if any utility lines are down; if there are, stay away and call PGE. Turn off all electrical equipment to prevent an overload on the system when power is SUBMITTED PHOTO: TVWD - With a few simple steps, homeowners can prevent burst water pipes during cold weather snaps.

    Protect your pipes

    On Tuesday, Tualatin Valley Water District reminded customers of the importance of being ready and avoiding the damaging effects of frozen plumbing. During the last cold snap in December, TVWD received more than 250 weather-related calls. Most calls were emergency shutoffs related to customer plumbing, such as water running out of the ceiling. TVWD wants its customers to be ready for the latest cold snap.

    Prepare your pipes before freezing weather: Know how to turn off your water in case a pipe breaks. Watch the Totally Valuable Water Dude video at for tips on where your water shutoff is.

    Common locations where you might find your water shutoff include the crawl space or basement, where the water line enters the home; in the garage where the waterline enters the wall or ceiling, near the water heater or laundry hookup; or outside near the foundation, often protected by a concrete ring or clay pipe. Protect your lines by disconnecting and draining hoses from outside faucets; turning off and draining irrigation systems and backflow devices; wrapping backflow devices with insulating material; covering outside faucets with insulation or newspaper; covering foundation vents with foam blocks, thickly folded newspaper or cardboard; and insulating hot and cold pipes in unheated areas, such as the garage, crawl space or attic. Help keep pipes from freezing during freezing weather by opening cupboard doors under sinks, especially where plumbing is in outside walls, to let interior heat warm the pipes and, temporarily, keep a small, steady drip of cold water at an inside faucet farthest from the meter. This keeps water moving, making it less likely to freeze.

    Know what to do if your pipes freeze

    Never thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame. You may start a fire and at the very least, your pipe will burst. Use hot air from a hair dryer, the exhaust from a vacuum cleaner, or a closely monitored heat lamp or electric heater. If your pipes break, shut off the water at the shutoff valve and turn off the circuit breaker or gas to the water heater. If you have trouble shutting off your water, call your water provider.

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