Winter weather can cause many problems.
Staying safe is a community effort.
Check on friends, family, and neighbors to make sure they are in a safe location.
- Call 911 if someone is experiencing frostbite or hypothermia.
- Call 211 if someone needs assistance getting to a community warming center.
Cold Weather Help
Spending too much time in the cold can create a medical emergency. If your body’s temperature drops too low, you may be unable to think clearly or move well. You might not notice when it’s happening. Learn about cold weather safety so you know the signs of low body temperature and how to stay safe from frostbite and hypothermia.
Living outside in the cold:
If need help or have questions about how to help someone living outside in the cold, call 211. If you think their life is in danger, call 911.
Shelter or financial assistance:
If you need help paying your energy bills or weatherizing your home, contact 211info to see if assistance is available in your area. During extreme cold weather events, winter warming shelters are sometimes opened to help protect people who don’t have access to shelter. Contact 211info or visit your county's website to find resources near you: Clackamas, Clark, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington
- Call 211 or 1-866-698-6155 (24/7)
- TTY dial 711 and call 1-866-698-6155
- Text your zip code to 898211 (TXT211) Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
- Email email@example.com
- Download the app
- Search online at 211info.org
Interpreters are available for 100+ languages by phone; text and email is in English and Spanish only.
Before a Storm
Charge Devices & Gather Supplies
Charge all of your communication devices - cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc. Make sure you have emergency supplies, such as medication, water, shelf-stable food, flashlights, and batteries. Do your shopping before the storm arrives. Try not to buy more than you need so we can avoid supply shortages.
Make a Plan
Have a power outage plan. How will you care for children, pets, and anyone with additional needs? Can you stay warm with what you have? Can you safely get to a friend’s house? Should you plan to go to a local library or warming center to warm up?
Sign Up for Alerts
Monitor Weather, Closures & Delays
The National Weather Service provides up-to-date information. Follow warning information if there is a weather watch, advisory, or warning - and know the difference. Check local news and school or business websites for info about closures. Sign up for FlashAlerts to receive info about many closures.
Check on Others
Ask friends, family, and neighbors if they need help getting ready or want you to check on them during the storm. This is especially important if they are experiencing physical or mental challenges. If you need help, please ask.
If You Must Travel, Be Prepared
If you must travel during winter weather, make sure you're prepared. Keep supplies in your car and know what to do if you get stuck. Print a winter driving guide and keep it in your vehicle.
During a Storm
Don’t travel unless you absolutely must. This is especially important during winter weather warnings.
Check routes before leaving.
Use online maps including Oregon Trip Check and Washington Trip Check to check your route and avoid problems. Visit the TriMet or the CTran winter weather pages to sign up for service alerts, learn about snow routes, and find tips for traveling in winter weather by bus and train. Be aware of public transit requirements during the pandemic.
Keep a breakdown guide and an emergency kit in your vehicle. Know how to put on snow chains. If your car breaks down, stay with it until help comes. Make sure you have face masks and hand sanitizer in case you need to interact with anyone during the pandemic.
Speeding is the number one reason for accidents. Three to five seconds is the standard following distance. Add more time when there’s poor visibility, snow, or ice.
Check on your neighbors if you are able. Offer to help them get groceries, clear sidewalks, walk pets, and do other chores that are more difficult during winter weather. It’s especially important to check on neighbors that rely on electricity or assistance from others.
Signs they may need help:
- Pets left out all night
- No lights on inside
- Mailbox overflowing
- Not answering the door or phone
Avoid frostbite and hypothermia.
Dress warmly and stay dry.
Wear warm socks, a hat, gloves, and a scarf or mask that covers your face and mouth. Wear several layers of loose-fitting clothing, including a waterproof coat and boots. Change out of wet clothing. Cold, wet clothing can lead to hypothermia.
Keep moving and stay off the ground.
Movement can help you stay warm. Stop moving if you are getting sweaty. Do not sit or sleep on wet, cold ground.
Take breaks indoors.
Don’t stay outdoors for extended periods. Find a library or local warming center if you need somewhere to go.
Keep the heat on.
Dress in layers and set your heater to 68 degrees. If we all keep our heat at a reasonable level, we can minimize stress to the power grid. If you need help paying your energy bills, call 2-1-1 or visit www.211info.org. Interpreters for over 100 languages are available by phone.
Be ready for a power outage.
If the power goes out, your home might get very cold, very fast. Visit our power outage page for info about what to do (and what not to do) if the power goes out.
Find a warming center.
If you can’t get warm at home, find a library or public warming center. These are heated spaces where you can get warm and rest. They are run by a city, county, or non-profit organization. Contact 211info or visit your county's website to find resources near you: Clackamas, Clark, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington.
Bring pets inside.
Extreme cold can harm pets. Animals left outside in extreme cold are at risk of hypothermia and even death. Their owners may also be at risk of breaking the law. Give them shelter in your home, garage, or other warm shelter.
Protect water pipes.
Frozen pipes may leak or burst. Turn on a water faucet to a drip. Open the cabinet doors under your sink to let warm air get to your pipes. Learn how to shut off your water and winterize your home, including how to deal with frozen or burst pipes.
- Trees or large branches may fall during wind storms or under heavy snow and ice. Stay away from them during and after a storm. It’s also a good idea to keep trees and large shrubs trimmed and away from your home.
- Learn how to stay safe around fallen or “downed” power lines. If you see a downed power line, leave the area immediately and call 9-1-1.
Learn how to prevent falls when sidewalks and parking lots are slippery and inaccessible.
Wear shoes with non-skid soles or good traction. If you have a cane, make sure the tip is not worn. Take off shoes as soon as you return indoors because often snow and ice attach to the soles - this can create slippery conditions once the shoes warm up.
In most areas, property owners or tenants are responsible for clearing snow and ice from in front of their homes and businesses. This helps everyone stay safer, especially people with limited physical mobility. When shoveling snow, pay attention to your body. Don’t work too hard, and take breaks.
Check in with neighbors.
If you are able to shovel snow, offer help to those who need it.
- Melting snow and ice can cause flooding, landslides, and other land movement.
- Never walk or drive through flooded areas. Floodwaters are powerful, fast, and can rise quickly. Floodwater that is six inches deep can knock a person over. Floodwater that is 12 inches deep can carry a car away. Floodwaters often contain dangerous debris and chemicals.
- When it’s wet outside, be cautious when driving or hiking in steep areas with loose dirt.
Mental & Emotional Health
Sometimes we all get SAD.
Pandemic, wildfires, storms, extreme heat, houselessness, violence, financial issues… We’re all struggling. Even without these disasters, winter weather can make us feel depressed and anxious. Cold, dark days can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s very common, and it can be especially hard when you’re dealing with other challenges.
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Having low energy and trouble concentrating
- Changes in mood, sleeping habits, appetite, and weight
Ways to Fight Depression
- Get regular exercise and spend time outdoors
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
- Try meditation or light therapy
- Talk to a friend or a trained mental health professional
It's okay to ask for help.
Please reach out if you need support.
- Clackamas County Behavioral Health
- Clark County Crisis Services
- Columbia County Mental Health Support
- Multnomah County Behavioral Health
State and National Resources