White Out Christmas, Best To Stay In

By: The Associated Press Email
By: The Associated Press Email

A winter weather advisory is in effect until 6 p.m. Saturday for southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa, including Omaha and Council Bluffs. About 10 inches of snow had fallen in the metro by Friday afternoon.

Final amounts will range from 12-13 inches around Omaha to 10 inches in Lincoln.

Omaha Public Works tells Channel 6 News the main streets are passable and work has begun on secondary streets, but with the blowing snow it's easy for streets to become covered again. Snow plowed to the center lanes is also making getting across intersections a tough chore.

There are 85 city plows out working, 20 smaller city trucks and 34 contractors.

Omaha Police have suspended taking property damage accident reports and will only respond to accidents involving injuries and accidents where vehicles are blocking the roadway.

Viewer Chad sent in the above photo of a snow drift at North 53rd and Bedford in Omaha. Viewer Lisa Keres shared the photo at the right of a massive snow drift in the 15th and Fort Stone Park neighborhood.

Southwest Airlines has canceled all departures from Eppley Airfileld for Thursday. Check with the airlines ahead of time if you're scheduled to fly out or are excpecting someone to arrive at Eppley.

Interstate 80 from Lincoln to Grand Island is closed in both directions. Travel is not advised as snow and blowing snow with wind gusts as high as 40 mph have virtually closed many secondary highways in the central and eastern parts of Nebraska. Drifting snow is making many roads impassible.

“This is an extremely dangerous storm,” said Nebraska State Patrol Field Services Commander Major Russ Stanczyk. “Freezing temperatures and below zero wind chill can be life threatening. We are advising no travel at this time.”

“The heavy snow and high winds are causing white out conditions across central and eastern Nebraska. We can’t stress strongly enough, at this time travel is not advised.”

Seven people have lost their lives in weather-related crashes on Nebraska roads since last Tuesday.

Interstate 80 from the Madison Avenue exit in Council Bluffs to Underwood is decribed as impassable with towing services prohibited.

The Iowa Department of Transportation reports roads have become impassable in western Iowa due to blowing and drifting snow. Large drifts will prolong reopening of some roads.

Travel is currently not advised on the majority of roadways in the western half of the state as well as some roads in central Iowa (Des Moines area included).

Snow is continuing to fall in these areas, and air and pavement temperatures are below freezing. This includes portions of Interstates 29, 35, 80, 235, and 680. Towing services are prohibited.

Roadways in north central and parts of northeast Iowa are also mostly covered with a mix of ice, snow and slush.

The following roadways are currently known to be impassable due to drifting; other roadways, especially rural county roads may be blocked as well.

  • U.S. 6 from I-80 to Iowa 48 (Griswold). This section will remain closed until large snow blowers are able to cut through the drifts.

  • Iowa 44 from U.S. 59 (Harlan) to U.S. 30 (five miles south of Woodbine).

  • Iowa 83 from U.S. 71 (Atlantic) to U.S. 59 (Avoca)

  • I-29 into South Dakota from Iowa is currently listed as closed/blocked/impassable (South Dakota is under a state of emergency).

  • I-29 into Missouri from Iowa is currently listed as closed from the Iowa border to U.S. 59.

    Nebraska Public Power District crews are working to restore power outages caused by the blizzard. Some 3,600 NPPD customers in seven communities lost power at various times Thursday night and Friday morning. All but two of the communities have had power restored as of mid-morning.

    Restoration efforts continue in Craig, where 122 customers are out of service, and in Milford, where another 965 are awaiting power. Long Pine, Bassett and Atkinson lost power Thursday evening and were restored prior to 10:30 p.m. Oakland and Oakdale outages occurred in the early morning hours and were restored by 8 a.m.

    "The blizzard conditions and icy roadways make it difficult for our line crews to respond to outages," said Tom Kent, transmission and distribution manager for NPPD. "We ask that our customers be patient under these kinds of conditions and our crews will respond to outages as quickly and safely as we possibly can."

    The Norris Public Power District reports 2,500 customers without power in Jefferson County.

    Thousands in western Iowa are without power after the storm coated power lines with a thick layer of ice.

    Iowa's largest utilities, MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy, have a total of about 6,500 customers without electricity Friday afternoon.

    MidAmerican Energy's largest outage is in the Sioux City area, affecting 3,800 customers. Alliant Energy has outages in Buena Vista and Clay counties.

    Meanwhile in Crawford County, emergency management director Greg Miller says the power is still out to about 1,500 families, down from 3,000 Friday morning.

    Miller says two families were treated for possible carbon monoxide poisoning when exhaust fumes from emergency generators came inside their homes in Vail and Dow City. He says both families have recovered.

    Channel 6 News reporter/photographer Mike Plews sent in the photo to the right from Beebetown, Iowa.

    Moderate to heavy snow is expected west of Interstate 35. Rapid accumulations are forecast. This area will receive from 12-18 inches of snow by Saturday. Localized 20-inch amounts may occur across far northwest Iowa.

    A sheriff's deputy in central Iowa's Guthrie County, where six inches of snow fell since Thursday night, said he saw only snowplows on his way to work Friday. "It's going to be one of them days," said Deputy Jesse Swenson. "Everybody wanted a white Christmas and they got it."

    Parts of at least 10 states are under blizzard warnings, including a line that stretches from North Dakota to Oklahoma. Slippery roads have been blamed for at least 18 deaths as the storm moved east across the country. Driving became so treacherous that authorities closed interstates in Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas to prevent further collisions.

    Viewer Barbara Stoddard sent in the photo to the right from Washington County, two miles west of Blair off Highway 91.

    Officials warned travelers to stay home and pack emergency kits if they had to set out. "The wind is killer, especially when you're empty," trucker Jim Reed said during a stop in Omaha. "Anything that's boxed, like a refrigerator trailer like I have, becomes like a giant sail in the wind."

    Many churches canceled Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, while others saw sharply lower attendance. "I don't think God wants anyone to get killed or break a hip or break a knee or something," said the Rev. Joseph Mirowski of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration in Mason City, Iowa.

    Garbage and recyclables collection in Omaha has been suspended until Monday when Deffenbaugh will be attempting collection in both the Friday and Monday sectors. Residents who regularly receive collection on Friday or Monday should have their materials set out by 6 a.m. Monday.

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