Published Tuesday

December 19, 2000 

Snow, Bitter Winds Slam Midlands


Shovel the driveway, finish the holiday shopping and enjoy today's break from the recent cold, snowy weather - the reprieve is not going to last long. 
click to enlarge  
Omaha city snowplows head south on 24th Street Monday morning.

Another wintry storm, the fourth in a week, is threatening to hit the Midlands on Wednesday, weather experts said. 

Although experts say it is too soon to tell how much snow could fall, the bitter cold could be a bigger problem later in the week. Temperatures Thursday could start out several degrees below zero and only rise into the single digits or low teens. 

"We all wish it would stop," said Josh Boustead, a forecaster with the National Weather Service Office in Valley. "Even I'm getting a little tired of it." 

The threat of another storm comes on the heels of a storm Monday that dumped up to 7 inches of snow on eastern Nebraska and western Iowa and stirred up strong winds across most of the state. The winds, in excess of 30 mph, caused problems with blowing snow - and blowing dirt - as well as dangerously cold wind chills. 

The hospitals in Ogallala, Neb., and Julesburg, Colo., were busy after a Greyhound bus with at least 45 people aboard left Interstate 80 and tipped over late Sunday one mile west of Big Springs, Neb. 

The eastbound bus slid on an icy patch of road, went into the south ditch and rolled on its side at about 11 p.m. MST, said Tom Venable, a dispatcher with the Nebraska State Patrol's Troop E in Scottsbluff, Neb. 

Two additional Greyhound buses were called to the scene, with one taking some passengers to the Ogallala Community Hospital and the other taking the rest to Sedgwick County Health Center in Julesburg. A wrecker was called from Ogallala to pull the bus out of the ditch, Venable said. 

The Julesburg hospital saw 21 patients, but only two were held overnight for observation. At the Ogallala hospital, 12 people refused treatment and 10 were treated and released. Two people were in good condition Monday afternoon, said hospital administrator Linda Morris. 

By Monday afternoon, the wind had become the story across Nebraska. Venable said two Panhandle highways - Nebraska Highway 27 south of Oshkosh and U.S. Highway 30 from Chappell to Big Springs - were closed because of blowing dirt. 

North to northwest winds reached 56 mph at Imperial, 54 mph at Alliance, 52 mph at Sidney and Broken Bow and 51 mph at Aurora and Scottsbluff, according to the National Weather Service. The high winds tipped over a southbound semitrailer truck about noon CST on Nebraska Highway 71 about 13 miles north of Scottsbluff, Venable said. 

Early-afternoon temperatures ranged from the single digits in northern and eastern Nebraska to the low 30s in the Panhandle and southwest Nebraska. But the high winds drove wind chills well below zero in most parts of the state. 

Most schools in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa were closed Monday, while snowplow drivers worked 12-hour shifts for the eighth day in a row. 

The snow and wind, which cut visibility to near zero Monday morning, made travel dangerous. 

Interstate 80 eastbound was closed near Mahoney State Park for several hours Monday after five semis and two cars collided with a snowplow, the Nebraska State Patrol said. Several people were transported to area hospitals, the Patrol said, but the extent of their injuries was unknown. 

Truck stops in eastern Nebraska reported many truckers pulled off the Interstate and other highways shortly before dawn Monday to rest, then pulled out again as the day lightened. Visibility on U.S. Highway 77 at Beatrice was "terrible," the Diamond T Travel Plaza reported. 

Many, like Marvin Scharff of Davenport, Iowa, were huddled around radios at truck stops and planned to leave when the snow stopped. 

Scharff was in a peculiar situation. He had pulled into the Flying J Plaza on Interstate 80 at 1 p.m. Saturday. Scharff said he was driving an oversize load to Denver and is required by state law to be off the highways between 1 p.m. Saturday and daybreak on Monday. 

"Here I had this great day for travel on Sunday, and I couldn't. Then I get up on Monday to this," Scharff said. 

World-Herald staff writer James Ivey contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press