A Multnomah County snowplow doing its thing on a rural road.

Okay, so maybe it is not yet snowing in Portland, Oregon.  But the folks whose job it is to watch the weather say that we could well be in for a white Christmas, even on our so-called floor of the Willamette Valley. That means bone-chillingly cold temperatures, potential icy, snowy roads and plenty of mountain snow.

Winter weather is expected to set in by Friday and continue into next week, according to the National Weather Service's Portland office; at least a foot of snow could fall in the Cascades at elevations above 4,000 feet. 

Local transportation officials, meanwhile, say they are watching closely, and evaluating which routes will be first in line for snowplow treatment. This is otherwise known as learning from recent history—it's been just about 5 years since a midday snowstorm brought the city to a grinding halt, with schoolchildren stranded on buses or stuck at schools for hours on end, and commuters abandoning their cars in the middle of I-5 (never forget).

In the meantime, it's a good idea to call off travel plans if you've got them, and make sure you—and any neighbors that might need help—have got food at the ready, plus warm blankets and flashlights in the event of a power and/or gas outage.

If you must travel, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office recommends having the following in your car: A cell phone charger, a shovel, a windshield scraper, water, snacks, tire chains and jumper cables. (And pretty much every public safety agency out there would co-sign this evergreen polite-yet-firm reminder from the Portland Bureau of Transportation that abandoning your car in a travel lane is really not a thing—if you must jump ship, at least pull over to the shoulder or a parking spot.)

Maybe you plan to leave your car at home and use public transportation during any so-called snow events? In our experience, the MAX is a better bet than buses, which may be delayed due to poor roads, and will definitely not attempt to stop on a hill (so plan on hoofing it to a flatter stop. Carefully, please.)

One of the best uses of your time before the cold weather arrives in earnest is to offer a helping hand to those who need it most. As the city of Portland/Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services and the county’s emergency management department stand by for inclement weather, they are currently hosting orientations for the severe weather shelters and warming spaces. Arbor Lodge recently opened a 24/7 winter shelter, which is being operated by Do Good Multnomah. Meals on Us PDX is raising funds for provide warm meals for those in need. And information for cold-weather gear donations, including warm clothes, tents and sleeping bags can be found here.

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