Metro motorists gradually returned to the roads and slowly headed back to work Friday. Slick streets made travel slow in the wake of the area's first blizzard in a decade. The plowing wears on.
Highway 77 from Mead to Fremont and Highway 92 from Wahoo to the Platte River will remain closed through the evening commute. High winds are leading to blowing and drifting snow, with reduced visibility. The Nebraska State Patrol closed the Highways around 10:15 Friday morning.
"The winds are causing eight to 10 foot drifts in the affected areas," said Headquarters Troop Lieutenant Mike Jahnke. "We need the motoring public to be aware dangerous travel conditions still exist. There is no doubt, the snow, blowing snow and overall weather conditions are making it extremely difficult to get around, on many eastern Nebraska roadways."
Motorists traveling the Interstate and Highways in the areas affected by the storm are advised that travel conditions remain difficult. High winds continue to cause blowing, drifting snow and near zero visibility at times.
In Omaha, the major streets have been the prime targets of the snow removal. Wind-whipped snow quickly covered cleared pavement on Thursday as the storm pushed through. On Friday, those winds kept hammering at the foot of snow that fell on the metro.
Residential streets were still difficult to navigate.
Main thoroughfares like Dodge were in good shape but there are slick spots everywhere.
Phillip Jesop lives in midtown Omaha and had made his way to 144th and Maple early Friday morning only to find out that his overnight shift had been cancelled.
He said the drive was difficult.
"Slick," he said. "There was a lot of black ice."
The City of Omaha Public Works Department is reminding property owners that they have 24 hours following the conclusion of a snow storm to clear their sidewalks. After the 24 hour time period has passed, citizens can report properties who have not cleared their sidewalks to the Mayor's Hotline at 444-5555.
Accidents and stranded vehicles slowed the pace of traffic as the day wore on and another inch or so of snow was in the forecast.
Metro Area Transit intended to resume normal service on Friday.
If you have to travel outside of the metro, be sure to check road conditions and plan accordingly.
Phone System Strained
Authorities in Iowa say that due to the large number of incoming calls, the road condition phone lines are not functioning normally. Iowa Department of Transportation of Transportation officials say both 511 and 800-288-1047 are receiving so many calls the system is operating, but callers may experience delays and may have to call several times to gather information. The road condition Web site, 511ia.org, is functioning normally.
“Our suggestion for Iowans today is to stay in a safe place and don’t drive,” said Dena Gray-Fisher, DOT spokesperson. “The National Weather Service is telling us dangerous wind chills are becoming a problem, and stranded motorists run the risk of not being rescued for some time during blizzard conditions.”
The Iowa State Patrol strongly recommends that drivers do not travel on Interstate 80 west of Des Moines.
Major D.L. Cox explains vehicles are stuck on the traveled portion of the Interstate 80, near mile makers 57 to 61 (near Atlantic), “It’s a giant parking lot out there. The situation will prevent motorists from traveling west of Atlantic on Interstate 80.”
Additionally, Cox reports semi-trucks and other vehicles are turning around and driving east in the west bound lanes of Interstate 80. He said this is compounding the situation of the previously stranded motorists from yesterday and this morning.
Current Closures – March 2, 2007: 5
Motorists are reminded that many county roads and local streets are also impacted by this storm and travel is not recommended in any of the affected parts of the state. Stay in the safest place, whether that is a workplace, motel, home or shelter.