Multnomah Co., City of Portland declare state of emergency ahead of bitterly cold winter storm

Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 2:52 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Multnomah County and Portland officials issued a state of emergency Tuesday afternoon ahead of a bitterly cold winter storm that was forecasted to arrive in the area starting Wednesday.

The state of emergency, which started Tuesday, Dec. 20, was meant to alert the public to the life-threatening temperatures and give the county flexibility to respond.

The County and the City of Portland announced plans to open four severe weather shelters from 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 until they are longer needed.

“Toilet paper, hot hands and that looks like socks,’” says Scott Kerman, Executive Director of Blanchet House, gathering a care kit. “Socks are critical this time of year because once your socks get wet, they’re no good anymore.”

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Which is why Blanchet House is already doing what they can to make sure the unhoused have what they need for the frigid weather.

“Making sure that everybody who comes in gets all the hot food that they want,” says Kerman. “We’ve got coffee and hot drinks going all day. We’re handing out coats and care kits, clothing and sleeping bags as much as we have in stock and that’s the challenge right now. We handed out more than 200 pieces of clothing just at lunch today.”

The warming shelters will be able to hold more than 300 people and the county says no one will be turned away and pets are welcome.

Kerman says some may choose not to go to these shelters, so they’ll be keeping an eye on their neighbors over the next few days.

“We’re going to be checking in on folks, making sure that they have food, making sure that they’re hydrated” says Kerman. “The bubblers are being shut down because of the icy weather, I just saw that posted. So, you know we want to make sure that people have access to water because you can dehydrate really easy in these temperatures.”

The locations were set to be announced early Wednesday and posted on Multnomah County’s Care for When it’s Cold page. All sites will be accessible to people with disabilities. Free transportation to warming shelters will be available by calling 2-1-1 or by accessing TriMet during the emergency.

Latest FOX 12 First Alert Weather forecast

The National Weather Service is predicting lows reaching 15 degrees beginning Wednesday evening with a potential wind-chill in East County nearing zero to minus 2 degrees. Forecasts for later in the week show a risk of freezing rain.

The Joint Office of Homeless Services said they will continue street outreach efforts and work to provide cold-weather survival gear and information about severe weather shelters.

“Declaring a state of emergency doesn’t just enhance the tools we have to plan, coordinate and gather the additional resources with severe weather bearing down on us. It also signals to our community that the conditions we expect are legitimately dangerous and life threatening,” Chair Kafoury said. “Please check in with your neighbors often, share information, and volunteer or donate if you’re able.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler is also planning to declare a state emergency for the city of Portland beginning Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022.

This is a developing story and will be updated.