By Jennifer Kristiansen
Well, it's snowing in Portland, and you know what comes next: People who grew up in places where snow happens regularly emerging from the woodwork to loudly complain about how "everything shuts down over a few measly inches" and "no one here can drive in the snow."
I grew up in a small town just outside Eugene and have lived in Portland for 10 years. I know and love plenty of folks from snow-covered states. I married a man from Ohio. But I feel the need to defend my fellow Pacific Northwesterners.
First of all, it does not snow in Portland the way it does in Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, North or South Dakota, or wherever else it is that the complainers are from. Thus, we do not have the infrastructure to deal with the snow on the rare occasion it happens here.
Only in the past couple of years did city ordinances change to allow salting the roads—it's bad for the fish. How many vehicles does the city have to deal with snow-covered roads? Portland has 56 trucks that can be fitted with plows, seven anti-icing trucks, and six salting trucks.
One-third of our roads are fit for snow-related service. Why would we have more than that, when it snows so seldom here? Why would we pay to maintain a larger fleet?
Secondly: All those people who can drive in snow, who now live in Portland? They cannot drive on ice. No one can, because physics is a thing. Every time we get snow, it rains first. Then the roads freeze over, and the city becomes an ice rink. And because we have relatively few plows and road salters, and we have a lot of miles of road, and a lot of roads those trucks can't fit down or aren't paved, we wind up with snow on top of an ice sheet.
So, after the snow comes, even on roads that can be plowed, the weather warms up just a tiny bit during the day, and the snow kind of half-melts into a slush, which then refreezes overnight. When that happens, what people are now trying to drive on is basically an unmaintained backwoods dirt-and-gravel road, but with ice instead of dirt and rocks.
Please don't try to drive in this, you overconfident Midwesterners who just moved here and think we're ridiculous. I know you can drive in the snow, Tim. But you can't drive on a fucking ice rink, and you're making it look like none of us know how to handle bad-weather driving. Those of us who grew up in Western Oregon (side note: It snows a lot on the east side of the Cascades) know better than to try to drive in the snow. Because it's not just snow. It's an icy sheet of death, covered in snow. If you can, please, I beg of you: Stay home.
Also, if you do have to drive somewhere, please, for the love of all things holy, stop using snow chains on bare roads. They are completely ineffective on ice anyway, and they tear up the pavement. We all know that the Portland Bureau of Tramsportation has an impossible backlog of potholes already. You are making the problem worse, Tim!
Thirdly, let's talk about topography. The complainers, in large part, are from Flat Places. Portland, on the other hand, is literally built on an inactive volcano. The hills here are no joke. The only place I've lived with steeper hills was Seattle, another place where the smallest bit of snow shuts down the city because you cannot drive on ice. During a snowstorm, I watched a bus slide down Queen Anne Avenue, right past our apartment, like a soap box derby car being rolled down Mount Tabor.
Your big-ass truck will not help you in the snow. The last big storm we got here in Portland, in early 2017, I drove home from work as soon as the first flake fell outside my office window in Beaverton. The 12-mile commute took me nearly four hours. On the way, I saw more abandoned pickups than any other type of vehicle. Four-wheel drive means nothing on ice, Tim!
So, in closing, my dear friends and neighbors, this will pass. Make some tea or cocoa or whatever, put on some fuzzy slippers, and hunker down for the few days that the city will be shut down because a bus sliding sideways down a hill is NotGreatBob.gif.
And if you're fortunate enough to have shelter, and a few dollars to spare, please consider our neighbors who are not so fortunate. Reach out to mutual aid groups who are doing the work to provide hand warmers, sleeping bags, coats, and other cold-weather essentials to our unsheltered neighbors. Cold weather can be deadly, and not solely to the people who get overconfident and try to defy physics in a Four-Runner.
Jennifer Kristiansen is an attorney, mother of two, and recovering freelance social media content writer. She hasn't enjoyed the snow since her teen years, when a skiing accident wrecked her knee. She lives in Southeast Portland with her family and her dog, a husky mix who also dislikes the snow.