December 19, 2023

Good morning, Tuesday. We're glad you're here.

😶‍🌫️ Today's weather: Rain and patchy fog. High near 51, low 42.

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Today's newsletter is 854 words — a 3.5-minute read

1 big thing: 🧳 Holiday rush preview

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Brace yourself for busy airports and highways this holiday season.

Driving the news: This year, AAA is predicting its second-highest year-end travel forecast since the group began tracking holiday travel in 2000, Axios' Kelly Tyko reports.

Why it matters: The projection rounds off a year when travel records were already set around July Fourth and Thanksgiving.

Zoom in: Portland International Airport is expecting about 730,000 passengers during these last two weeks of December.

The big picture: Across Oregon, AAA says about 1.4 million people will drive to their holiday destinations this year, and 156,000 will travel by air.

Threat level: INRIX, a transportation data company, predicts Portland's peak congestion will hit this Saturday around 5:45pm on I-84 E from Portland towards Hood River.

  • The company said that trip will take 1 hour and about 40 minutes — 40% above average.

What they're saying: Doreen Loofburrow, senior vice president of travel for AAA Oregon/Idaho, said in a written statement she expects about 2.5 million more travelers across the region this Christmas and New Year's season compared to last year.

Be smart: The airport recommends arriving 2.5 hours before domestic flights and 3 hours before international ones.

  • And it recommends checking parking availability online before driving to the airport.

The big picture: AAA said 115.2 million travelers nationwide will hit the road or take flight during the 10-day holiday travel period beginning Dec. 23.

  • The group projects 4.7% more holiday air travelers this year compared to 2022.

Tell a friend

2. ❄️ Dreaming of a white Christmas

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One problem most local travelers won't need to worry about this year, however, is weather.

What's happening: The holiday looks like it will have "all in all a pretty quiet weather pattern," Colby Neuman, a meteorologist with the Portland office of the National Weather Service tells Axios.

  • "There will be some snow across the Cascades, but overall it should be relatively not a bad time to travel."

Yes, but: That means the chances of a white Christmas in Portland this year are less than 5%, he says.

  • "It doesn't look promising."

Zoom in: The odds of snow rise to around 10% in locations about 2,000 feet, he said, such as Brightwood and Zigzag.

  • "A little bit more of a glimmer of hope for them," he said.

Threat level: The main "period of concern" for travelers, weather-wise, is for those heading up and over the Cascades on Friday night and Saturday morning, he said.

Zoom out: NOAA's 2023-24 winter outlook, released in October, called for a warmer- and drier-than-usual season across the American North, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Erin Davis report.

Look ahead: Check out the NWS' 10-day forecast here

3. Rose City Rundown

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

🗑️ Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle is offering the state more money to clean up litter around Portland's freeways. (Oregonian)

  • Boyle gave the state $146,000 for the same purpose five years ago, but the government only spent $30,000 before returning the rest due to lack of staffing.

🦆 Oregon landed a big commitment yesterday from All-American Northwest Missouri State running back Jay Harris. He was in Eugene over the weekend. (Sports Illustrated)

Hundreds of parents in the Tigard-Tualatin School District have signed a petition to oust its superintendent because of an uptick in shooting threats on campus and viral videos of fights. (KGW8)

  • The district says it has just adopted a new policy to address school violence.

4. 🦠 COVID check-in

Weekly COVID-19 activity in Oregon wastewater
Data: CDC; Note: Data for the two most recent weeks may be incomplete due to delays in reporting; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Oregon is seeing relatively low levels of COVID-19 as the rest of the country experiences a surge ahead of the holiday travel season, Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng report from the latest CDC data.

Driving the news: Wastewater analysis was showing minimal COVID-19 levels in Oregon as of earlier this month, down considerably from December 2022.

Meanwhile, almost every state showed at least "high" levels this month compared to baseline trends.

Yes, but: Given how much traveling people will be doing this season, it's likely that Oregon's COVID situation will worsen over the coming weeks.

Zoom out: There have been nearly 67,200 deaths related to COVID-19 nationally this year, per provisional CDC data.

  • That's down significantly from about 246,200 last year and 463,300 in 2021, but still a considerable toll.

The big picture: As of early December, 22 states had "very high" COVID-19 wastewater levels as defined by the CDC, which compares current rates to baseline measurements at sites nationwide.

  • Read more about the agency's methodology here.
COVID-19 activity in U.S. wastewater
Data: CDC; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

Go deeper

5. 📸 Pic du jour: Santas aplenty

Do you know where the Santa clones are this year? Photo: Meira Gebel/Axios

🎅🏼 Meira here. Over the weekend, I went on the hunt.

  • Every year since 2011, artist Chris Willis sets up hundreds of glowing Santa clones in an undisclosed location and drops hints via his Instagram for Portlanders to find them.

The clues are pretty easy, but the tradition can only live on if mum's the word — once you find 'em, don't share their whereabouts with anyone else.

A new career is waiting for you

💼 Check out who's hiring now.

  1. Development Director at American Heart Association.
  2. Customer Success Manager at HP.
  3. Event Production Manager at Portland Trail Blazers @ the Rose Quarter.

6. 🎁 1 gift tip to go: Wrap without waste

Credit: Data: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Infographic: Lindsey Bailey, Kavya Beheraj/Axios
Credit: Data: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Infographic: Lindsey Bailey, Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Our intrepid colleagues on the Axios visuals desk did a deep dive into holiday wrapping.

🤯 Wrapping the news: They found that laying gifts diagonally could help you use less paper — saving money and scraps from ending up in the trash.

Zoom in

🏔️ Emily is back in the valley!

🍽️ Meira is wondering where she should pre-order Christmas dinner from this year.

Special thanks to Axios' Emma Hurt for helming the newsletter while Meira had some much-needed rest.

This newsletter was edited by Rachel La Corte and copy edited by Steven Patrick.