NEWS RELEASE: County to open severe weather shelters tonight; Chair Vega Pederson to declare emergency due to potential snow

February 14, 2024

With the National Weather Service officially forecasting up to 3 inches of snow overnight in the Portland area, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson will declare a state of emergency effective at 6 p.m. today, Feb. 14.

Multnomah County employees and service provider partners will open four severe weather shelters and add a limited number of severe weather beds at an existing all-year shelter.

Those additional 480 severe weather beds will remain open at least through 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 15. The County and its partners are also prepared to keep shelters open tomorrow as conditions warrant — out of an abundance of caution — reflecting the relative uncertainty in the National Weather Service’s official forecasting models, which have ranged from a rain-only event to significant amounts of snow. 

The four additional shelters opening at 8 p.m. tonight are:

A limited number of severe weather beds are also opening at an existing all-year shelter:

The County’s “Care for When It’s Cold” site at will post shelter hours, locations and any updates as conditions change.

No one seeking shelter will be turned away. All sites will welcome pets and be accessible to people with disabling conditions. Because of the state of emergency, free transportation to warming shelters will be available by calling 2-1-1 or through TriMet. People planning to use TriMet to get to a warming shelter should check for routes at and let the driver they are headed to a warm place.

This interactive map shows places to to get warm during the day, including Multnomah County Library branches, which are planned to be open normal hours today.

Volunteers needed

The County is asking community members to consider signing up to volunteer at a severe weather shelter, including signing up for days later in the week when shelters may open if severe weather persists. Anyone who is able and can travel to a shelter site safely is asked to volunteer for a shelter shift. Find all available shift opportunities and sign up online to support these life-saving resources.

Volunteers who have not yet taken the required trainings are encouraged to attend a virtual “Just In Time” training today from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Please sign up with this form to attend today’s training. Volunteers who are unable to attend the Just In Time session can complete the training on their own using the training modules listed here

Support for people living outside

The Joint Office of Homeless Services is beginning an enhanced street outreach effort today, coordinating additional and focused outreach to find vulnerable people and urgently distributing cold weather gear. Providers will also step up coordination around information on resources and system shelter capacity.

The Joint Office of Homeless Services also funds and supports more than 2,000 shelter beds open every night during the cold season. These beds are open daily, no matter the forecast. Other community partners also add winter shelter capacity.

Many organizations providing aid to people experiencing homelessness also partner with community volunteers to offer their services. Find a list of agencies who welcome volunteers and find links to their opportunities to help. 211info also has a winter-focused donations site.

If you see someone about whom you are concerned during cold weather, such as an individual who is not dressed warmly enough for the weather conditions, call the City of Portland’s non-emergency response line at 503-823-3333 and request a welfare check.

If someone outside is unsheltered and their life appears to be in danger, call 9-1-1. 

Winter weather is especially dangerous for anyone experiencing houselessness, and can also pose a greater risk for older adults and people with disabilities.

Thresholds for severe weather shelter and other preparations

Multnomah County officials — in consultation with County Emergency Management, the Health Department, County Human Services, the Joint Office and National Weather Service experts — are charged with determining when conditions are met to open severe weather shelters.

The basic elements of the County’s thresholds were first developed and used by the City of Portland, before the Joint Office was created, when the City served as the lead agency providing severe weather shelter for adults experiencing homelessness.

Severe weather shelters open as needed when any of the following thresholds are met for any one of the conditions below that are forecasted to persist for four (4) hours or more between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.:

  • Forecasted temperature of 25° F or below.
  • Forecasted snow accumulation of 1 inch or more over a 24-hour period.
  • Forecasted temperature at or below 32° F (0° C) with 1 inch or more of rain.

A fourth threshold was added by County leadership this season:

  • The County's Chief Operating Officer or their designee may consider other conditions or circumstances during a severe weather event that could increase the risk to the community and activate elements included in this standard operating procedure.

Even when severe weather thresholds aren't met — but when overnight temperatures are forecast at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, for roughly four hours or longer — the Joint Office issues a "cold weather advisory."

This advisory triggers expanded outreach to deliver cold-weather gear; providers also share information on resources and system shelter capacity. Overflow shelter capacity is made available to outreach workers, who can refer people in need.

Stay informed and check on neighbors

Emergency managers and the Multnomah County Health Officer are advising all community members to get ready. Check on your neighbors: Please knock on the door, make the call, let people know if you’re going to the store and ask how you might help.

Care for When It’s Cold: Up-to-date information from Multnomah County on shelters, safety and support. Up-to-date info on weather conditions, available resources, where to find the nearest available shelter and transportation options. You can also find out where you can donate winter weather items to those who need them. Sign up for Severe Winter Weather alerts via email or text by going to 211info’s sign-up page.

National Weather Service: Check weather warnings in the Portland Metro area.

Public Alerts: Sign up to get emergency alerts about safety concerns in your area.

TriMet Alerts: Check for winter weather advisories.

ODOT TripCheck: The Oregon Department of Transportation TripCheck site updates Oregon road conditions and streams live roadside video.