Winter weather arriving in Portland metro on busiest holiday travel day

Published: Dec. 19, 2022 at 5:04 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - With the busiest travel day for the Christmas holiday not until Friday, those hopping in planes, trains, and automobiles should expect to run into winter weather.

Transportation officials said the potential for an ice storm Friday, could cause travel headaches for thousands of people on the move this week. AAA said 1.6 million Oregonians will travel this Christmas with Portland International Airport expecting some of their busiest days since the start of the Pandemic. Gwen and Clem Strelecki were at the airport Monday, waiting to pick up their son and grandchildren. They’re grateful their family is flying in well before the winter weather. Gwen said the potential ice storm is arriving at the worst possible time.

“Isn’t that terrible,” Gwen said. “I can’t think of another word for it.”

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A spokesperson for Portland International Airport said the airport terminal will never shut down because they know some people may get stranded. They’re getting their anti-icer ready to put on the runways so air traffic can safely land and take off. The spokesperson also said it takes significant weather to shut down both runways for more than a few hours. The last time planes couldn’t get out of the airport for more than one day was during an ice storm in 2004. She said to check with your airlines if you’re worried about cancelations because ultimately the pilots make the final call on whether or not they feel like it’s safe.

But the biggest concern is the roads. AAA said 90 percent of Americans will travel by car this year, including Oregonians. Marie Dodds is a spokesperson with AAA and she is sure you have proper snow tires and chains in your car. Also, make sure you know how to use them. Your tire pressure should be around what’s recommended in your owner’s manual.

“When you’re heading out in your car and you know a snow and ice event is on the way, pack that emergency kit in your car with plenty of extra warm clothing, blankets, enough snacks, and water,” Dodds said.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) said they’re ready to maintain the roads thousands will drive on this week. Both agencies said they have anti-ice and salt on standby with an army of crews to put it on the roads. Hannah Schafer, a spokesperson for PBOT, said Portlanders should double-check their winter weather map and see what roads get anti-ice or salt. Because a road that gets plowed for snow, may not get treated for ice. She said PBOT just doesn’t have the resources to maintain thousands of miles of Portland roads. She also said treating roads for ice is different than for snow.

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“When that freezing rain comes down and at a certain point if it starts to accumulate, the safest thing you can do is stay off the roads,” Schafer said. “Ice it sticks, it’s harder to break up.”

Don Hamilton with ODOT said his agency will focus on keeping highways and interstates safe. But if conditions get worse, and crews can’t keep up, major freeways may shut down as a safety precaution.

“Keep a close eye on the roads, watch the conditions, watch the forecast and make sure you understand what conditions are like,” Hamilton said. “If it’s not safe, don’t go. The safest thing you can do is stay home.”

For the rails, TriMet said riders should expect delays if ice starts to accumulate on overhead electrical wires and on tracks. There could also be service disruption. FOX 12 did reach out to Amtrak as well, but we didn’t hear back.