A tree collapses on an apartment building in the Park Blocks. Justin Grinnell/PSU Vanguard

Snow batters Portland, PSU and remote learning

Portland was pelted by an unprecedented winter snowstorm over the Valentine’s Day weekend, with widespread power outages, slick roads and fallen phone lines and trees across the city. While much of the snow has since thawed, the weather’s impact persists. 


With 6.1 inches of snow on Feb. 12 and 3.3 the next day, Portland’s snowfall set new record highs for those dates, according to the National Weather Service


Come Monday, the NWS reported downtown Portland had 0.7 inches of ice. The area hardest hit by ice was Oregon City, with upwards of one and a half inches of ice accumulation. 


Portland State was no exception to the impacts. On-campus operations halted between Feb. 1114, the closure expanding to remote classes and work Feb. 15 and 16, totalling six days in a row of campus closures while students and faculty grappled with power and internet outages. 


The university reopened Wednesday, but acknowledged that there were still many students, attending school from across the country, who were without power. 


Winter has been very hard on many places that our students reside—from the Portland metro area to Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, to the DC area and beyond,” stated a university-wide message from Dean of Student Life Mark Walsh and Interim CARE case manager Katrina Machorro. “We understand that due to these power outages, much of your focus is on your own health and safety and for those in your closest community, and away from your classes, homework, and upcoming exams.”


The power outages in Portland were extensive, reaching from the downtown area to the surrounding cities. By midday Saturday, Portland General Electric, an electric company serving from Portland to Salem, had 41,000 customers that were still without power, according to the company’s Twitter, after having restored power to more than 650,000. According to PGE, there was 10 times more damage to their system than there was during the extreme winds and wildfires that hit the state in September 2020. 


Almost 80,000 Pacific Power customers were without power as well over the course of the storm, with about 1,300 without power Friday. 


Falling branches, trees and power lines carried much of the blame for power outages—and are also to blame for citywide damage and road closures.


The most extensive property damage over the course of the storm came from falling trees and power lines. In the South Park Blocks alone, multiple trees had fallen over the weekend, including an entire tree that uprooted and fell on an apartment building just off of campus. 


Roads were shut down across Portland over the weekend, including I-84 going both ways, according to the Portland Bureau of Transportation. The freeway reopened Sunday, but by Tuesday, almost 50 roads were closed across Portland, almost entirely due to fallen trees and power lines. 


The road closures and dangerous, icy conditions led TriMet and Portland Streetcar to suspend all MAX, streetcar and bus lines Saturday morning. While service was able to resume later in the day, public transit routes continued to see disruption throughout the week. 

Portland State University during the February snowstorm. Sofie Brandt/PSU Vanguard