Portland Braces for Its Coldest Morning Since 2014

With lows in the teens expected overnight Wednesday, Multnomah County prepares to open severe weather shelters.

WINTER HIKE: On Rocky Butte. (Brian Burk)

With Portland facing its coldest overnight lows in nine years, Multnomah County declared a state of emergency Tuesday afternoon and announced the opening of four severe weather shelters Wednesday night.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service are predicting an overnight low Wednesday of between 13 and 25 degrees Fahrenheit, with a best forecast of 17 degrees. That would make Thursday morning the coldest in Portland since 2014. Wind chills could reach the single digits.

To make matters worse, forecasters expect those record lows to be followed by snow and sleet on Thursday afternoon.

“We have the potential for a quarter to half an inch of ice accumulation,” says NWS hydrologist Andy Bryant. “People need to think about pets and livestocks [and] if they have any plumbing that is susceptible to freezing and bursting.”

County officials did not announce the locations of the four warming shelters, but pledged to do so by Wednesday morning. “The conditions we expect are legitimately dangerous and life threatening,” Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said in a statement.

Update, 10:30 am Wednesday, Dec. 21: The county has announced the four shelter locations.

  • Portsmouth Union: 4775 N Lombard St.
  • Arbor Lodge: 1952 N Lombard St.
  • Sunrise Center: 18901 E Burnside St.
  • Oregon Convention Center, 960 NE 1st Ave.

During past cold snaps, staffing those shelters has proved challenging for the county.

The severe weather conditions are sending people indoors at a time when hospitals in Portland are under “crisis standards of care” due to high levels of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus. RSV has been overwhelming the medical system (especially the pediatric emergency system), resulting in a state of emergency declared by Gov. Kate Brown on Nov. 15.

Traveling east for Christmas could also be hairy.

“The timing and the amounts of the precipitation still have a lot of uncertainty,” Bryant said. “There could be some travel impacts due to some ice on the roads Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. The Gorge will stay cold all the way until probably Saturday afternoon and evening, travel conditions through the Gorge will remain really difficult through Saturday.”

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