Snowmageddon in Portland OR


We just got more than a foot of the stuff last night–the most snow this city has had since 1980. They were originally saying it would be a few inches. And while the weather is supposed to dry out during the next few days, we’re not supposed to go above freezing till the weekend at the earliest. We are totally boned, because Portland doesn’t even get snow most winters.


Really? Wow. I had no idea.


Yup. The snow has stopped falling for now, but the city has almost completely shut down. My employer (a large manufacturer) even closed its facilities today entirely.

Chains are actually required on Portland area state roads today per ODOT–snow tires and all-wheel drive aren’t sufficient.


Damn. We had just an inch or two over the holidays in Seattle (obviously much more up in the mountains).

I always like it when the Cascades get snow, since it makes them look so much closer when you look out the window.


Snow in Portland is no joke


Listening to the engine revving on that second car (the one from like 40s in), and all I can think is “What the fuck does he think he’s doing?”


I have family in Portland, when they got an inch of snow in mid-December they said the entire city shut down. They bought “disaster toilets” on amazon, which as far as I can tell are buckets full of cat litter.

A foot… hard to even imagine.


Is this serious because Portland has no mechanisms in place to cope with that snow? Chains required? Why? Are there very steep grades and no clearing? I don’t mean to belittle the event, but here in Montreal there are multiple snowfalls of that magnitude each winter, and far worse, and we don’t require drivers to put chains on their tires. Winter tires are mandatory for cars registered in the province from Dec. 15 through March 15th, however.


They typically go years without snow, yeah.

No infrastructure, very few plows, they don’t put down salt, nobody has chains, and nobody knows how to drive in the snow so they go fast and crash.


The problem there is not the snow. The entire road was a super smooth sheet of ice.

The person driving at the 45 second mark was driving like a damn lunatic. When you lose control of your car you don’t step on the gas to add acceleration to an already out of control moment. My first thought was “that driver must be drunk”. He accelerated into all 3 head on hits, then the one time he could have lessened an impact (when drifting backwards) is the only time he didn’t.


I think we have the wrong idea. We’re assuming he was trying to stop sliding. Maybe instead he saw all the wreckage and said to himself, “I’ve always wanted to do demolition derby, and the insurance will pay for this!”


You know what’s hilarious? I thought the same thing!!! But then it seemed like a pretty nice vehicle so I threw that idea out the window. But then I was thinking of him in that lull drifting backwards considering, “Would it be too obvious if I throw it in reverse to make sure this car is really totaled?”


I would imagine - we had a similar snow and ice situation in Seattle a few years back. Bunch fell all at once and we had no snow plows, so I was trapped in my neighborhood for the better part of a week. Luckily I could walk to some restaurants and stores so it wasn’t dire, but I imagine others weren’t so lucky. Pretty much cost the mayor at the time his reelection:


So the real problem is a city with no snow removal ability and drivers who have no idea how to drive in the snow and ice. Check.

I get it. If you don’t have experience with that kind of driving, it’s tricky.

That 40 second drive really did seem loco, though.


Seattle has steeper hills than San Francisco. And the times that it snows and actually sticks is probably once every 10 years, on average. And when it actually does do that, it sticks around for about 3-5 days before it melts. It’s not like the midwest where you’ll be driving in snow for months. So there’s no real budget for dealing with snow (plows, salt, sand), and no one has any practice driving on snow. And no one owns winter tires because you’d use them once every 10 years, for about a week, and then you’d have to get new ones, because tires age. Combine that with our hills, and, you get disaster. There’s a photo of a bus that slid on a hill and almost went through a barrier and into I-5. The front end of it is hanging over I-5.

Plus, we get a very moist snow, due to our proximity to a warm Pacific current. That stuff easily turns to ice once it’s compacted.


We got about 8" out here in the burbs. Fortunately we’re able to work from home so I didn’t even try to make it out today.

After the traffic gridlock caused by a snowfall that started at midday in December they’ve started using salt but it doesn’t really make much difference when you get 8"-12" of soft fluffy snow. We just don’t have the plows necessary to keep the streets clear and it doesn’t really make sense to make that sort of investment when we only get heavy snows every few years at most.


What year was that? I was there for the snow back in … I want to say 2005 or 2006 when a lot of Bellevue/Redmond lost power. Do you remember that? I remember there was one Burger King in Bellevue which still had power, and the line to get food was hours long.


Only 45 miles south here in Salem we got less than an inch. Crazy. It is supposed to snow more today.


2008 was the big Snowmaggedon. The city refused to use salt because they didn’t want it going into the waterways. That decision lasted about 48 hours, and the city shut down, no vehicles could go up hills, and everyone was furious. The mayor lost the following election, and many agree it was his bungling of Snowmaggedon.

I actually went to a party in Ballard and was trapped there for a solid 24 hours.


Aw man, I don’t remember the exact year - think it was 2008, maybe 2009? I don’t really remember the snow you mentioned but then I live near the bay and we get pretty different weather patterns than the east side. It can be weird. I see folks drive in from work with snow piled up on their cars and then I didn’t see any snow at all. Kind of like what Brad is talking about I imagine.