Welcome to Portland, Oregon


Image: G. Lamar Yancy on Flickr

Weather tips

Let's start with the old joke:

  • Question: What if I don't like the weather in Portland?
  • Answer: Wait five minutes.


Everyone here seems to be dressed as if they are about to go camping.

Portland weather

Portland weather ranges from perfect, 70°F early summer days with gorgeous views, low humidity, shorts and T-shirt ... to 34°F winter ice storm, everything freezes over, shuts down, and Portlanders (God love 'em) are dreadfully unfamiliar with snow shovels.

The more important thing to know is, it rains a lot. Mostly this is not heavy rain, but a light drizzle. Rainy season, depending on the year, runs from sometime in October to sometime in May. The rest of the year is nearly rain-free. But especially during the rainy season, the weather can change in an instant. Forecasts are not the most accurate. In this season:

  • Always have a good raincoat with you. (Portlanders aren't too keen on umbrellas - maybe because they take up a lot of space among people walking on the sidewalk.)
  • Wear or bring layers. Not only does it start and stop raining at odd intervals, but the temperature can swing pretty wildly in a few minutes.
  • Wear water resistant shoes or shoes suitable for hiking. Not only will you be ready to hike or camp at a moment's notice, but you won't ruin your shoes from inevitable puddles.

It rarely snows here, but one or two snowstorms and/or ice storms per year should be expected. There is not much capacity for plowing, and salt and sand are not used as liberally. Additionally, because this weather is so uncommon, many drivers don't handle it well. Best advice for snow and ice storms: stay off the road. Get some YakTrax and walk.

More advice

A dear friend moved to the Pacific Northwest a few years ahead of me. When she learned that I was headed here, she provided three pieces of advice which have served me well. I don't always follow them, but I try.

  1. Don't move here in winter.
  2. Embrace the rain.
  3. Get outside every day.

I will add and modify a few things:

  1. Get outside in the morning. Even when it's overcast, which is standard for long stretches in the winter, there is still substantial sun exposure to be had by going outside. Far more than you could ever get from a lightbox. Even ten minutes will help, and your circadian rhythm will thank you.
  2. Get a lightbox. There will be some mornings or days when you just don't feel like going outside. Having a lightbox jammed in your face while you have breakfast or stretch your body can help wake you up.
  3. Talk to people. Despite the impact of device addiction on nearly everyone, many folks are willing and able to chat, from the usual small talk to more interesting conversations. Unlike some parts of the U.S., chatting with someone at the bus stop or in line at the grocery store is not considered odd.

Emergency readiness

Portland, and other parts of the Pacific Northwest, have a major earthquake coming, eventually. No one can say when, but it's a known issue. It's important to be prepared. Here's a good place to start: