Winter is, apparently, coming.
The National Weather Service is predicting that Portland could see a foot of snow on the ground by Saturday; residents in the Columbia River Gorge have been told to prepare for “blizzard-like” conditions.
Cue our region’s collective freak-out, nowhere better reflected than the fact that the background on isitsnowinginpdx.com has turned fire-alarm red, and the animated Kermit the Frog that populates the page is clearly in a state of extreme alarm.
We here at Portland Monthly do not have a meteorologist on staff, nor do we have fancy graphics to track the first flake. What we do have is a certain level of snark-informed experience about what to expect from your fellow Portlanders over the next week or so, as the expected snow (so pretty!) turned inevitably to freezing rain (so slippery!) and then, inevitably, into a thin layer of ice that will coat the side streets until the sun comes out.
Can you spot yourself in these archetypes? Be honest now.
The transplanted East Coaster/Minnesotan
This person believes that just because they have four-wheel drive and chains, they will be just fine on the roads. This person is delusional. Is it totally their fault? No. They come from a place where the cities are more prepared for snow because it happens on the regular, and so giant fleets of snowplows and de-icers are deployed immediately. This is not what happens in Portland. If you are wondering how many plows we have, the answer seems to be eleven, based upon the nifty, interactive maps that the Portland Bureau of Transportation has posted, allowing us to track where the plows, de-icers and salt trucks are. If past history is any guide, main thoroughfares will stay relatively clear, but side streets will not. Plus, it’s not so much about driving on snow as it is about driving on ice, and that, friends, is what leads to cars abandoned in the middle of Interstate 5 for days on end.
The kale hog
The thing about clichés is that there is some truth to them. It’s not unusual to rush to the supermarket to stock up on provisions in advance of a winter storm. It is unusual for there to be runs on kale, instead of say, milk or spaghetti (though we buy those things too). And yet, every time there is even a hint of snow in these parts, kale disappears from the supermarket shelves like clockwork.
The winter sports warrior
This is the person who wants those fresh tracks on their local sledding hill (on the East side, try Brooklyn Park at SE 10th and Haig; on the West side, try the hillside above Chapman Elementary School, 1445 NW 26th Ave) and who has already waxed their cross-country skis in preparation. Even when the snow inevitably turns to icy pellets, this person will be out there trying to snowshoe or maybe go for a jog. See also: Person most likely to visit an emergency room with a broken appendage within the next week.
Is it some cosmic sign from the universe that bars and restaurants throughout the metro area are getting the green light to reopen for indoor dining at exactly the same time that a snowstorm descends on the metro area? Some restaurants have already declared that they would have stayed closed even without the snow—remember, we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, and indoor dining and drinking isn’t the safest choice—but there will be some people who book it to the bars tomorrow night, snow and COVID-19 be damned. To them, we can only say: please, keep it within walking distance, and do not attempt to drive home impaired.
And finally, those who do-unto-others
Snow may bring out the worst in the barhoppers; in others, it summons the urge to help the many houseless people who are facing some of the coldest nights of the year. The city/county Joint Office of Homeless Services and the county’s emergency management department are opening up severe weather shelters and warming spaces, including at the Oregon Convention Center and at the Arbor Lodge Severe Weather Shelter. Want to help? They’re always in need of cold-weather gear donations, including warm clothes, tents and sleeping bags. Find out more about where and what to donate here.