Portland saw a historic snowstorm last week that halted traffic throughout the city. Though the city expected some snowfall, the sudden storm brought it to a halt. And now, a week later, many Portlandians are asking why the city didn’t prepare properly for the storm.
Weather forecasters thought that the snow on Wednesday, February 22, would be mostly light. When the day actually came, however, it dumped nearly a foot of snow across the city. Traffic slowed to a crawl, schools closed, and officials halted many state and local services, including trash pickup. Many wound up abandoning their cars on the road to get home and out of the cold. Basically, the snow caused the city to come to a complete stop on Thursday.
When the snow settled, many in Portland and throughout the state of Oregon asked: Why were transportation officials so unprepared?
The snowstorm snuck up on Portland, but the city was not ready.
In press releases and statements since the storm, Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) officials have emphasized that they were prepared for a smaller storm. According to the forecasts that came out even that morning, Portland was expecting a few inches of snow at most. They were not ready for the second-snowiest day in the city’s history. The city’s response to those two kinds of events would need to be very different.
That being said, could PBOT have prepared better than it did? PBOT had 20 snowplows ready to go on Wednesday morning. In addition, they had enough city employees ready to go to staff those vehicles and some salting equipment. That snowplow total, of course, fell far short of what the city needed. Even though it had no idea how bad the snow was going to get, the city could have planned for more serious snow than it got.
Nearly a week later, the city has done a good job since then of clearing roads and getting services back up. It’s a good thing it has, because Portland is once again facing snow this Friday and Saturday. While forecasts expect that the city will see only light snowfall, we know how that goes sometimes. Hopefully the city will do a better job of handling this minor storm.