Published Friday

February 1, 2002 

Storm cleanup in high gear 


It takes a while to clean up after about 30 hours of snowfall, so crews will be working into Saturday to clear residential streets across Omaha. 
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Tommy Langan and Rachel Hansen, both 16, take full advantage of the snow at Candelwood Lake in Omaha.

The best-equipped crews the city has had in years have been working since Wednesday night to clear the 7 to 10 inches that fell between Wednesday afternoon and near midnight Thursday. 

Crews began working in residential areas as soon as they started the main streets, but because of the way the snow fell, residential streets will have to be redone, said Tom McDonald, city street maintenance supervisor. 

Every residential street will get at least one pass-through by sometime Friday night, McDonald said. . 

McDonald said a full crew will be out Saturday. He hopes the last of the streets can be fully cleared of snow by Saturday night or early Sunday. 

Sunshine will cause the snow to melt and refreeze, creating slick conditions, so he said crews will continue through the weekend spreading de-icer and sand to melt the ice and provide traction for cars. Crews will especially target intersections and hills. 

All major streets and about a third of residential streets were done by the morning rush hour, he said. 

A spot check showed that residents in scattered areas across the city were still waiting for plows to hit their side streets. 

Schools canceled classes for the second day in a row because of heavy snowfall. 

At the peak of the storm, about 160 trucks were out, said Norm Jackman, acting public works director. That included several new trucks. The continuing upgrade of the city's fleet made it possible to hit this storm more effectively, Jackman said. Plowing wears heavily on the trucks but since they were in better shape to start with, there were fewer breakdowns. 

Crews also had to contend with their first major snowstorm since the city trimmed four foremen's positions as a cost-saving measure. McDonald said his department was able to borrow supervisors from other divisions so that he could continue to have coordination both in the field and at the city yards. 

On Friday, the city had about 175 people working snow removal on the street and in the office. 

In Bellevue, the majority of city roads, both major thoroughfares and residential streets, were plowed before the morning rush, said George Graham, the city's street superintendent. 

After that, crews concentrated on cleaning up intersections and clearing up icy spots, Graham said. 

Getting the job done quickly was partly the result of strategy. City crews, using about 30 vehicles, worked until about 10 p.m. Thursday and then hit the streets again around 3 a.m. Friday. 

About a third of the streets were done before drivers took a break, and the rest were finished early in the morning when the roads were empty, said Denny Hilfiker, Bellevue's public works director. 

"That gave people a chance to get home and in bed and off the streets," Hilfiker said. "Then we could get our work done in one clear shot." 

Concerns about whether side streets would be open prompted area school districts to cancel school for the day. 

Area school superintendents conferred about 8 p.m. Thursday night on whether to hold classes Friday, said Luanne Nelson, director of public information for the Omaha School District. At the time, the forecast was for continued blowing snow, which led the district to believe plowing crews would not be able to clear residential streets, Nelson said. 

There still are quite a few side streets that are not clear, Nelson said. "You make the best decision that you can at the time." 

She said the decision was made Thursday night instead of Friday morning because conditions looked bad and because in these days of working parents, families need as much notice as possible so they can make arrangements for care. 

World-Herald staff writers Jeff Robb and Veronica Rosman contributed to this report.