Portland, OR weather forecast: Multnomah County closes down in response to snow

If your library book is overdue today, you're in luck: All Multnomah County libraries are closed, so you've got until at least tomorrow to return it.

If you need to do any other business with the county – pay your property taxes, visit a general health clinic, do some research in the archives – you'll have to wait until Monday.

Multnomah County Chair Marissa Madrigal made the pre-dawn call Friday morning to close the county after a snowstorm hit the metro area Thursday afternoon.

Only "essential employees," such as the sheriff's office, transportation crews and building maintenance crews, have reported to work today.

Everyone else is staying home by Madrigal's orders. Similar closures hit public and private organizations throughout the metro area Friday, including Portland's city government.

County spokesman David Austin said employees would be paid during Friday's closure. The county's inclement weather policy states that employees should receive pay when they are ordered not to work because county offices are closed. On the flip side, when the county re-opens, employees who don't report to work will have  to use their own vacation or personal days if they wanted to be paid.

Former County Chair Diane Linn got into hot water a decade ago, when she paid employees who couldn't make it to work during a bout of wintry weather, then attempted to give all employees an extra day off.

Madrigal won't take any such action, Austin said.

The decision to close came down to practicality and safety, he said. Madrigal met via phone conference with county department heads, and made the call based upon weather reports and other factors.

"We looked at safety of clients, safety of employees, and the city closed and TriMet running into problems," Austin said. "The people we serve, many of them rely on public transit. So we had to weigh that."

More than 300 of the county's 5,600 employees are still working today. Facilities crews are making sure pipes don't freeze in county buildings, corrections officers are manning the jails, and road crews are maintaining the 300 miles of county-owned roads in Multnomah County.

Only one quarter-mile stretch of road remains closed. The steep hill at N.E. 238th Drive between Glisan Street and Arata Road in Wood Village has been closed since Thursday and "will remain closed until weather conditions improve," county spokesman Mike Pullen said in an email Friday morning.

While most county Health Department buildings are closed Friday, the pharmacy, the HIV clinic, and the tuberculosis clinic will be open until 2 p.m.

Austin said Madrigal and other county leaders will hold a conference call at 1 p.m. to determine whether the county's already limited Saturday programs will be canceled.

The closure's financial impact, he said, would be minimal.

"We have a couple of cold weather incidents like this each year and we prepare for them, so it's not like we have to run to 7-11 and get some road salt," he said.

Portland, OR weather forecast: Multnomah County closes down in response to snow | agus murod | 5