What a week for towing companies. At least 600 drivers abandoned their vehicles on Multnomah County roads during the Feb. 22 drive-time snowstorm, according to numbers compiled by the Portland Bureau of Transportation.
Three hundred forty-nine of those vehicles were towed to impound lots between 4 pm Wednesday and today.
That figure includes cars abandoned on city streets, state highways and the federal interstate system. PBOT administers a contract with private towing companies that state, county and city agencies can summon to haul off cars blocking area roads.
City transportation officials waived fines Thursday for people who abandoned their vehicles during the Wednesday evening commute. But those drivers still had to pay to get their cars out of impound—a cost that can run upwards of $300. That sparked some outrage from drivers who felt blindsided by road conditions, although motorists, snowplow drivers and meteorologists alike were surprised by the storm’s severity.
PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera says more than a third of the 609 vehicles scheduled for tows were recovered by their owners before tow trucks arrived.
“We estimate there were about another 230 canceled tows,” he says, “which is where an agency called for a tow truck but the vehicle owner arrived and moved their vehicle before the tow truck arrived.”
Another 30 cars were either intercepted by owners while the tow was in progress, or moved to the side of the road. “Some portion of those were simply moved from a dangerous spot on a hill to a safe place out of the way at the request of the public agency,” Rivera says. “In those cases, the vehicle owner would have come back to find the vehicle located nearby, with no sign of a tow truck or a police officer or anyone else. They hop in and go with no fee.”
Somewhere in these latter categories was the Portland man who left his car on Interstate 205 on Wednesday and returned Friday to find it broken into and stripped for parts. That intense distillation of Portland in 2023 was first reported by KGW-TV.
PBOT doesn’t have numbers for vandalism, but it can break down the towed cars by geographic area. The largest concentration, by far, was on the west side of the Willamette River—an area that includes both the West Hills and Interstate 405.