With bitter cold forecast to arrive in Multnomah County on Wednesday night, Chair Deborah Kafoury declared starting Tuesday, Dec. 20, to alert the public to the life-threatening temperatures and give the County maximum flexibility to respond.
The County and the City of Portland and their service provider partners will open four severe weather shelters from 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022, for as long as conditions require. No one will be turned away.
Locations will be announced early Wednesday and posted on Multnomah County’s Care for When it’s Cold page. All sites will welcome pets and will be accessible to people with disabilities. Free transportation to warming shelters will be available by calling 2-1-1.
The National Weather Service is predicting lows reaching 15 degrees Fahrenheit beginning Wednesday evening with a potential windchill in East County nearing zero to minus 2 degrees. Forecasts for later in the week show a risk of freezing rain.
The Joint Office of Homeless Services will continue its enhanced crisis street outreach efforts, working with mutual aid groups and its contracted outreach providers to provide cold-weather survival gear and information about severe weather shelters.
”Declaring a state of emergency doesn’t just enhance the tools we have to plan, coordinate and gather the additional resources with severe weather bearing down on us. It also signals to our community that the conditions we expect are legitimately dangerous and life threatening,” Chair Kafoury said. “Please check in with your neighbors often, share information, and volunteer or donate if you’re able.”
Mayor Ted Wheeler is also planning to declare a state emergency beginning Wednesday, Dec. 21.
The County and City lead the group of agencies working together to support severe weather shelters, and City and County leaders meet daily, consult experts, and jointly determine whether shelters will open, using the most up-to-date forecast from the National Weather Service.
Check back at multco.us/cold for the latest hours, locations and updates as conditions change.
Warming Shelters and Free Transportation
The Joint Office of Homeless Services operates shelters year-round for people experiencing homelessness. There are more year-round shelter beds – congregate beds, motel rooms and sleeping pods – funded now than before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Beyond those beds, partners open additional warming shelters and mobilize additional outreach workers and gear distribution on nights when severe weather hits.
County and City employees, along with Do Good Multnomah and Cultivate Initiatives, will staff the four severe weather shelters starting Wednesday night with total capacity for 310 people and room to expand.
For transportation during extreme cold, call 2-1-1 or ride TriMet to a warm space. TriMet will not turn away anyone traveling to or from a warm place who cannot afford to pay fare during the state of emergency. TriMet asks riders to let their driver know they are headed to a warm place.
When riding transit during extreme weather, plan extra time and check trimet.org/alerts before traveling, as there may be weather-related delays to service.
Hospital capacity limited as Crisis Standards of Care still in effect
Everyone coming indoors is also urged to wear masks and wash their hands frequently due to RSV, influenza and COVID-19 now circulating in the community.
Hospitals in the Portland metro area, including Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health, OHSU Health and Providence, are operating under staffing crisis standards of care in response to the high volume of adult and pediatric patients with respiratory viruses — including COVID, influenza and RSV — in addition to the care they provide every day.
Emergency Medical Services call volume remains high with a 14-day average of 350 calls. Visits to local area hospitals for people simply seeking shelter from the cold are also up, the Multnomah County Health Department reports.
People can stay safe by limiting travel, and always dressing for life-threatening weather if they go outside, as any delay in their plans could potentially be dangerous.
“These will be the coldest temperatures in our area in two decades,” said Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “Our bodies are not used to extreme temperatures, which makes this as serious as the heat dome event in 2021. I am genuinely worried about people getting frostbite or succumbing to hypothermia.”
Support People Living Outside
If you see someone about whom you are concerned during cold weather, such as an individual who is not dressed for the weather conditions, call the 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.
“These will be the coldest temperatures in our area in two decades,’’ said Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “Our bodies are not used to extreme temperatures, which makes this as serious as the heat dome event in 2021. I am genuinely worried about people getting frostbite or succumbing to hypothermia.”
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.
211info.org: 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 it. Sign up for Severe Winter Weather alerts via email or text by going to www.211info.org/winter-and-severe-weather-shelters/#MULTNOMAH.
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.
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