Published Saturday
February 10, 2001

Streets Crews Work Harder as Gusts Scatter Snow in Storm's Wake


Snowplow crews didn't have the wind on their side Friday. 

As soon as city crews cleared streets, wind gusts that reached 39 mph blew snow back on the roads, creating drifts. 

The winter storm that began Thursday dumped between 4 and 5 inches of snow on the Omaha area, closing schools for the second day in a row. Eastern Nebraska and western Iowa were the hardest hit, getting coated with up to 10 inches. 

In Omaha, snowplow crews were clearing residential streets Friday night, said Vince Emmanuel, street maintenance supervisor for the Omaha Public Works Department. At midnight, he said, blower rigs, which pick up snow and shoot it into dump trucks, were to begin work downtown. 

"All of the districts will replow the majors again starting at midnight," Emmanuel said. "As soon as they get done replowing the majors, we'll jump back into the residentials." 

Winds weren't the only problem Friday. Snow also ended up back on the streets because business and property owners blew snow into them after they had been cleared, Emmanuel said. 

The winds began to subside Friday night, allowing crews to clear streets and keep them clear. 

Winds throughout the weekend are expected to be from the south, with speeds between 10 mph and 20 mph today and 15 mph and 30 mph on Sunday, said Bryon Miller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Valley. 

The snow, however, likely will stick around awhile, with a high of about 20 degrees expected today and about 30 predicted on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday are expected to be slightly warmer, with highs in the 30s, Miller said. 

"It will allow the snow to melt a little bit, and then it looks like it will turn cooler later in the week," he said. 

Across the river, ice and blizzardlike conditions closed Interstate 29 from Council Bluffs to the Missouri River for more than two hours. 

Two accidents occurred on I-29 shortly before 11:30 Friday morning - about an hour before the decision was made to close the Interstate. In one of those, an Iowa State Patrol cruiser was hit, but the officer was not injured. 

Another trooper, who was working the accidents on I-29, had to be taken to an area hospital for possible frostbite. 

Several I-29 motorists were escorted to nearby motels for shelter. 

Nick Hatcher and Erin Croy, both freshmen at Creighton University, were among them. They were involved in a three-vehicle accident near Glenwood while on their way to Kansas City to catch a bus for a ski trip to Aspen, Colo. 

"We're just really happy that no one suffered severe injuries. It put a damper on our plan, but there's more to life," Hatcher said. "The road was a sheet of ice." 

While weather continued to be a problem for motorists in Iowa, Lt. Tom Schwarten of the Nebraska State Patrol said no major crashes were reported Friday in the Omaha area. 

"I'd much rather have the snow than the ice," he said. 

Schwarten attributed the smooth Friday morning and afternoon commutes to people taking their time and slowing down. 

He cautioned that people traveling on the Interstates must stay on guard for the unexpected. 

"There are areas of packed snow and ice and where the snow is blowing across," he said. "People have to be aware that those conditions can change at a second's notice." 

The continuation of strong winds could cause drifts to form on the less-traveled highways, making them more hazardous. 

"It's a pretty good surprise when people are going at a fairly good speed down the highway and then they run into a drift," he said. 

The weather didn't stop garbage collection Friday. 

Deffenbaugh Disposal Service crews picked up what remained of Thursday's collection on Friday, said Norm Jackman, a city engineer. Most of Friday's collection was finished in the afternoon. Crews will be out today to pick up garbage that was missed Friday, he said. 

Recyclables collection was canceled Thursday and Friday. Brown paper bags may be used for extra recyclables not collected on those days.