So Your Power's Out in Portland. Now What?

Here's what to do—and what not to do—while you wait for the lights to come back on.

By Julia Silverman February 15, 2021

A layer of ice blanketing SE Ankeny Street in Portland.

Image: Marty Patail

Feeling powerless this morning? 

You’re definitely not alone. 

Across Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, hundreds of thousands of residents were without power Monday morning after a triple-whammy snow, ice, and windstorm walloped the area over the weekend, and there isn’t much clarity on how soon the power might come back on. 

As we repair one area, another area is impacted, and more repairs have to happen,” Portland General Electric posted on its website. Crews were working around the clock, the utility said, but with more than 4,400 wires down, across 200 miles of transmission lines, and only 2,500 people available to work to restore them — well, you do the math. 

(There are a smaller number of people in the Portland area who are Pacific Power customers, mostly on the east side. The utility said Monday that there were about 20,000 people in Portland area without power, and that the goal was to complete repairs by the evening.) 

In the meantime, what to do when the hygge of it all wears off and the cold sets in? Here’s some handy dos (and some definite don’ts) for weathering the next who-knows-how-long.* 

Across Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, hundreds of thousands of residents were without power Monday morning.


  • Disconnect all your appliances, in order to protect them from a surge when the power comes back on.  
  • Put rolled-up towels at the base of any doors leading outside, to seal in the heat. 
  • Double-check your circuit breakers and reset any that might have tripped. 
  • Close any curtains or blinds—depressing, we know, but again, you want to hold in the heat you’ve got until the power comes back on. 
  • Make sure you have a flashlight and batteries handy. 
  • If you have a vehicle, move it away from any large trees—their branches are bending and breaking under the weight of the ice. You don’t need your car to be right under them when the branch falls. 
  • Layer up! You thought you wouldn’t have to unearth that Ugly Christmas Sweater until next December but think again. 
  • If you decide to light candles for some 17th century atmosphere, please remember to keep a close eye on them, and don’t let them burn unattended. Same goes for the fireplace.  
  • Check on elderly friends and neighbors. 


  • Open the fridge and the freezer, except when necessary. You are cold, but the food in there is getting warm, and you don’t want the appliance to lose its chill. Food will stay cold in the freezer for about two days; in the fridge for at least four hours.  
  • Decide to use your gas stove to heat your home, given the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Just...nope. 
  • Along those same lines, should you own a generator, operate it only outside, at least 15 feet away from any structure. 
  • Call 911, unless someone is having a medical emergency. They’re busy enough right now. 

Bonus! Be a prepper: 

Don’t feel all smug just because you still have power. Things are changing fast right now and this could be you in a few hours. If you’re at home this morning, here’s what to do: 

  • Charge those phones and other crucial devices. 
  • Plan some cupboard meals that don’t involve the fridge.  
  • Make sure blankets, warm clothes, flashlights and batteries are well within your reach. 
  •  If you decide to venture outside, wear sturdy shoes with some tread, or use hiking poles, since it's slippery out there. Check the Oregon Department of Transportation's before venturing out on the roads and make sure you have chains in your car.

*To be clear, we heartily hope that this will all be over really soon. Wasn’t 2021 supposed to be better than the previous year-that-shall-not-be-named? 

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