Large Snowfall, Bitterly Cold Temperatures Prompt Seattle, Portland to Open Storm Shelters

Snow and freezing temperatures across western Washington and Oregon caused emergency shelters to open in the two states this week.

Snowfall from the Gulf of Alaska came down on the Pacific Northwest, coating the Seattle area in about 6 inches of snow and Port Angeles, across the Puget Sound from the city, in over a foot of snow. Seattle saw temperatures as low as 15 degrees F Monday morning.

Portland, Oregon, also saw snowfall and icy roads. This is highly unusual for the Pacific Northwest region.

Mary Butwin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Seattle office, told the Seattle Times more snow is expected, which combined with the freezing temperatures could prove dangerous to the city's roads.

"What we're going to be seeing for the next few days is very cold temperatures, by Western Washington standards," Butwin said. "We haven't seen temperatures like this in the last several years."

According to the Seattle Times, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed an emergency order paying people up to $150 per shift to work at shelters and warming centers, citing the cold weather's dangers to the city's homeless population as especially urgent.

Starting Saturday, the city opened at least six shelters that will remain open through at least Wednesday.

Portland officials also opened at least five shelters, with Oregon officials declaring a state of emergency.

Lumen Field, Seattle, Washington, snow
Snowfall and freezing temperatures prompted Seattle and Portland to open several emergency warming shelters. Above, a Lumen Field employee shovels snow before the game between the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears at Lumen Field on December 26, 2021, in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Icy roads will make the commute challenging in Seattle and Portland.

"We are in particular, concerned about the chance of black ice and other icy conditions around the city," said Hannah Schafer of the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

The agency is urging people to stay home if they don't have to travel on Monday. That way, roads will stay clear and safe for emergency vehicles and those buses.

Frigid temperatures in the region could tie or break records in the coming days.

The Seattle area is expected to dip as low as 18 degrees F (-7.7 C), the lowest in several years. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, will drop to -5 F (-20 C) by Wednesday.

In Portland in the early part of the week, overnight temperatures will get down to the low teens.

Along with Multnomah County and Portland, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued a state of emergency declaration Thursday evening to remain in effect through January 3, saying expected snow and sustained temperatures below freezing could result in critical transportation failures and disruptions to power and communications infrastructure.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pike Place, Seattle, snow
A large winter storm dropped heavy snow across the Pacific Northwest over the weekend. Above, Harrison Walsh skis by Pike Place Market on February 13, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images