Storm Keeps Plows Busy Around the Clock
BY JAKE BLEED and TODD VON KAMPEN
A storm that dropped up to 10 inches of snow on the
metro area and sent wind chills plummeting had street-maintenance crews
working overtime Monday and at least one homeless shelter struggling to
make room for everyone.
Paul Koch, director of the Siena-Francis House in Omaha, said the shelter was continuing to accept guests even though it had about 50 more than its total capacity.
"We're going to take people in even if they have to sleep on the floor or in a chair," Koch said. "We're not going to turn anybody out. They're going to freeze to death in this weather."
Koch said such numbers are not unusual and that Omaha's homeless population has increased this year.
Temperatures will not recover much today. Omaha's high - if you can call it that - should top out at 8 degrees, according to WeatherData, The World-Herald's weather consultant.
Lows early Wednesday are expected to range from 5 degrees below zero to 5 above, with highs of 15 to 25 degrees across Nebraska. The forecast for Wednesday also includes a 30 percent chance of light snow.
The arctic air responsible for the cold weather also brought snow to most of the Midlands by Monday afternoon. Accumulations ranged from 2 to 3 inches in western parts of Nebraska to nearly 10 inches in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. The combination of the cold and strong winds produced wind chills of 40 degrees below zero in many areas.
The snow and cold forced many school districts to close, made driving difficult, caused minor accidents, affected some city services and generally made it uncomfortable - if not dangerous - to be outside.
Tom McDonald, the city's street-maintenance supervisor, said the 150 plows at work for the city struggled against windy weather that forced drivers to plow and replow main streets.
"That's been an ongoing problem and that's one of the reasons we still have a number of trucks on the major streets," McDonald said. He doubted that plows would reach all the city's streets by this morning.
Two shifts of drivers put in 12 hours each, McDonald said, a schedule that will probably continue until late this evening.
Schools were closed Monday in most of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, including Kearney, Lincoln, Broken Bow, Omaha, Bellevue, Council Bluffs, and Atlantic. Some districts also announced late starts for today.
Law enforcement agencies reported numerous minor fender benders and traffic tie-ups, but few major-injury accidents Monday. In one incident, a 47-year-old woman was taken to Omaha's Immanuel Medical Center after a two-vehicle accident about 7:30 a.m. on U.S. Highway 75 about one mile north of the Douglas-Washington County line.
Besides accidents, the cold weather posed danger for vehicles in general. Rose White, public-affairs director for AAA Nebraska, said that between midnight and 3 p.m., AAA trucks responded to 474 calls, compared with 236 last Monday.
At 3:40 p.m., Pat Barnes, manager for AAA Nebraska's Omaha fleet, said that he had 80 people on a waiting list and that conditions were limiting the number of people he could aid. Since he started working at 10 p.m. Sunday, Barnes said he had helped nine people. "It seems like you get one done and you'll get four or five people who've called in."
The weather forced Deffenbaugh Industries to cancel its trash pickup Monday, said Norm Jackman, an engineer in the Omaha Public Works Department. Trash and recyclable pickups will resume today. Monday's trash will be picked up next week.
Council Bluffs officials canceled Monday's trash collection. City crews will pick up Monday's trash when collections resume today.
World-Herald staff writer Veronica Rosman contributed to this report.
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