Wednesday, January 11, 2017

snowpocalypse: PDX

Portland's solution to snow is Spring. It's kind of hilarious, but also kind of tragic. How ill-prepared is this city for snow? Honolulu has to be better prepared!

Coincidentally, I was on the way home from the airport last night after returning from Honolulu. What a mess the roads were. I realized very quickly I-84 was at a standstill, so I got off at the Sandy bypass and drove along Sandy toward the Burnside Bridge. Along the way, there were several Tri-Met busses without chains, as well as motorists in small cars without chains, stranded and blocking intersections and on-ramps.

Even though traffic was crawling at a very slow pace and at a standstill in other spots, getting home was an exercise in thinking on the fly. One of the tricks was to find the flat roads. I was less likely to run into stranded cars and get trapped if there were no hills. Of course, I was acutely aware of other motorists, especially the ones who never should have been out on the roads. Anticipating where they would get stuck allowed me to avoid getting stuck. "Accidents waiting to happen," I thought.

usually I take the route highlighted in blue, last night I went a different way
The other trick was to maintain momentum, even if it was a snail's pace. Every time I stopped, I had to start again, and that's where the traction problems occurred. Usually I drive up a big hill at Burnside, or US 26, which also has one big hill coming out of the city. No dice last night. Couldn't even approach those spots because of stranded vehicles. There were also pedestrians, joggers, dog walkers and even cyclists out. Cute, but they were essentially obstacles creating more road hazards.

After getting over the Burnside Bridge, I headed up Burnside but there were stranded Tri-Met busses blocking the way. I went through the Pearl District to get around, crossed over to go toward the Ross Island Bridge, and there was another pile-up involving busses and motorists leading to the 26 on ramp. I went around again, this time toward Naito Parkway, and headed toward Barbur, all the while maneuvering around stranded cars and Tri-Met busses. I had to go through more than one parking lot to get around them.

This photo from the Tri-Met web site is so ironic. All they did for me last night
was block several potential routes with stranded busses that were not chained up
Finally I got to Barbur Blvd., and then to Beaverton Hillsdale Highway. Not far beyond Hillsdale going toward Beaverton, ANOTHER Tri-Met bus was stranded, blocking most of the intersection. Other cars were getting stranded trying to get around, and impatient drivers from behind were trying to get through one opening from both directions with no way to see what was coming from the other side of the bus. Incidentally, the bus had no chains on its tires. See a theme here? Tri-Met should be ashamed! They were utterly unprepared, and there is no reason why a bus should have been on the road at 10PM headed down one hill and toward another, in a foot of snow, without chains.

One side-note to the chaotic mess caused by Tri-Met busses is ODOT's failure. The roads were not prepared, and they never are. Where was the sand? Where was the gravel? Where was the de-icer? Where are the plows? The refusal to use salt is a huge part of the problem, particularly on the hills. In a nutshell, that's why Portland shuts down when it snows: poorly prepared roads, poorly prepared mass transit and poorly prepared drivers. I am unhappy with all of them, but glad to be safe at home.

So, welcome home from Hawaii! LOL! Our plane must've been one of the last to land. Others were diverted to Seattle. Even though it was an annoying drive home, my only problem was with the lack of preparedness of others. Story of my life! I have an SUV with 4WD and chains in the back if needed. I wouldn't be any less prepared to drive in Portland in the snow, but plenty of drivers last night seemed to disagree with that idea. I cursed them under my breath as I crawled by their stranded cars. Hope the hazard lights didn't run down the batteries, LOL! Oh well, maybe Portland's solution will come soon and the snow will melt. 


  1. Now Bill...SEATTLE is as unprepared as PDX...don't hog ALL the credit. I talked to a girlfriend in Multnomah this morning and she had already decided no driving today...cozy fire, soup and books. I checked the Bertha webcam and it is a cousin is flying in from Honolulu tonight (he's out on Cornell) and I did advise him to may stay a few more days...welcome home to the PNW!!!

    1. Give him my driving map. The route I took was the absolute best way to go in the snow. Flat roads. :)

  2. Given the fact that many tire stores let you return chains if you don't use them, you would think there would be more people carrying chains in this town. I'm lucky to be able to walk or bus everywhere I need to get. I would hate to be a car commuter in this town. Funny enough, were flew to Kona minutes before the first ice storm in December hit and all was melted by the time we got home.

  3. Portland wanted to welcome you home from Hawaii with snow! Lol. I'm actually headed to Hawaii this Friday (to get out of this snow!). I'm from Idaho, so I'm used to this weather. But it is funny the stark contrast between how snow is dealt with here versus in my hometown. I understand that Portland doesn't have the resources to take care of the snow since it rarely happens here. However, the drivers on the other hand.. there's no excuse.

  4. You are being a little hard on Portland! The storm came on quickly and snow started piling much faster than normal. Also, the de-icing and salt that they used to prepare for this was washed off the roads by a lot of rain that happened prior to the snow. Just my opinion about this. I grew up in Central New York State and I know snow!! Glad you got home safe and sound. I was worried about you.

  5. Welcome home from the islands indeed! I'm glad you got home safely. I'm lucky that I was at home, and we have heat, power and plenty of supplies. We enjoyed the snow day with sledding and playing outside!

  6. 1n 1990 my husband's career required us to leave Portland after 16 wonderful, but sometimes ice scary years. Thanks for reminding me why after living in sunny California we can never go home again!

  7. It certainly has been a royal mess, hasn't it? I've lived here most of my life and it's never been good, but I don't remember it ever being quite like this either. Come on Tuesday - get here quick with your 40 degrees and rain!