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Partner Portal: Timeout waiting for connection

Occassionally, salesforce.com isn't reachable to our partner portal, usually during salesforce's scheduled maintenance periods which typically occur around 10-11 pm pacific time.

When this happens, users who attempt to login to the portal get an error like this:

*                       ; nested exception is: org.apache.commons.httpclient.HttpException: Timeout waiting for connection

This seems acceptable while salesforce.com is in fact unreachable, but we've found that our portal continues to return this error sometimes for several hours.  In effect, the portal is "stuck" in this error state and the way we resolve this is to reload the application via the Tomcat admin console.  This exact scenario played out last night, as we received an e-mail from a user at 1:24 am reporting this error.  I tried logging in at about 8:15 am and reproduced the timeout error, so I was forced to reload the app to "clear" the the error.

Anyone else encountered this or have any idea how to resolve this?

We're not using the Partner Portal, but we have had some custom programs written for us to import data from our billing system to Salesforce, and we have been experiencing many timeouts, and are at a loss for how best to deal with these when they occur.