Drivers scramble to find abandoned vehicles after Portland storm, tow lots full

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 5:48 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Abandoned vehicles trapped in ice and snow across highways and city streets have been a common sight the last two days in the Portland area.

For may drivers who ditched their cars, now begins the task of trying to find where their car was towed.

Vancouver, Wash. resident Rae Case is one of thousands of drivers who were stranded on metro area highways overnight from Wednesday to Thursday. On Friday, she was recovering her car at Northwestern Towing in Northeast Portland. She said she was trying to get home Wednesday night when her car began having trouble.

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“I got about two miles from the I-205 North exit on 84, and my car was having issues,” said Case. “It took about four hours just to get to that point.”

She was able to get a ride, but her car was left on Interstate 84 for 36 hours. It also appeared to have been broken into at one point. Case says it was impossible to try and get off I-84 on Wednesday night and try and find a hotel right before the Interstate 205 interchange.

“That off ramp had a tanker truck with three cars smashed against the rail and just broken cars, abandoned cars all up it,” she said. “There was nowhere to go.”

For Northwestern Towing, their lot is now overflowing with dozens of vehicles that were abandoned on highways or Portland city streets. Paul Walters who helps operate the towing company says his team has recovered vehicles as far east as Troutdale, and as far west as Portland’s West Hills.

“We probably have 24 that just came in over the last day or so,” said Walters. “Everybody from FedEx, to the box trucks that get stuck, we have  school bus that we had to rescue off of West Burnside.”

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Walters also says Northwestern Towing still has a backlog of 100 calls of stuck or abandoned vehicles they need to respond to.

“A lot of the [vehicles] that the people leave on the side of the road, the city has no way to get in contact with them, and the city needs to free up the roads, so the city calls us.”

To find a towed car:

  • Cars abandoned on highways: call ODOT dispatch at 503-283-5859.
  • Cars towed within Portland city limits: call Portland Police Auto records at 503-823-0044.
  • Towed vehicle locations can also be found using this online tool for Portland and the surrounding area.