A Pacific Northwest forecast of frigid temperatures with snow and ice in some places has Seattle opening shelters while Oregon’s governor and the city of Portland have declared a state of emergency.
Seattle city leaders said Thursday that the city will open two severe weather shelters in the evenings starting Saturday through at least Wednesday. The shelters — at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall and at Compass Housing Alliance — will open at 7 p.m. each day.
National Weather Service in Seattle meteorologist Reid Wolcott said at a news conference with Mayor Jenny Durkan on Thursday that the main concern is cold temperatures in the region with daytime highs next week struggling to reach freezing and overnight lows that could drop to single digits.
“This is a rare event,” Wolcott said. “It’s been years since those of us at the weather service in Seattle have seen forecast data like this.”
Measurable snow is also possible in the Seattle and Portland regions over the weekend, forecasters have said.
“Very cold temperatures will impact vulnerable populations such as the homeless, pets, and those without adequate access to heating,” the National Weather Service said Thursday.
Durkan urged people to stay home if possible, check on neighbors and pets and help to keep sidewalks clear of snow and ice.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a state of emergency declaration Thursday evening to remain in effect through Jan. 3, saying expected snow and sustained temperatures below freezing could result in critical transportation failures and disruptions to power and communications infrastructure.
Her declaration authorizes the Oregon Office of Emergency Management to activate state resources, and to use personnel, equipment, and facilities from other state agencies to respond to the weather emergency.
Earlier Thursday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury also declared states of emergency to continue during the expected days-long cold snap, KOIN-TV reported.
“This will give us the maximum ability to plan, contract and seek additional resources over what could be a very long cold snap stretching to the new year,” Kafoury said at a Thursday news conference.
Five severe weather shelters will also open in Portland and around Multnomah County starting Saturday, officials said.
“Our state has experienced a number of climate-related emergencies this year, and with another coming, I urge all Oregonians to make a plan with your family now and be prepared,” Brown said in a news release.