Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Omaha.com
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By Nancy Gaarder
World-Herald staff writer
City workers are continuing to clear snow from Omaha streets, but the mayor asked residents to be patient.
With more snow falling on top, last week’s difficult-to-plow — and now hard-packed — snow could remain a headache into next week on some Omaha streets.
“The snow was so wet, the snow came down so quickly, that it basically has turned into an ice event,” said Mayor Jim Suttle.
Suttle said that Omahans who want to report bad road conditions should use the city’s app, go to the website or call the mayor’s hotline at (402) 444-5555.
Given the cold weather and the packed snow and ice, the best hope for improved road conditions is increased sunshine, said Scott McIntyre, Omaha street maintenance engineer. Warmer weather wouldn’t hurt, either.
Except for Christmas Day, crews have worked around the clock to clear Omaha’s streets, he said.
Omaha has seen greater amounts of snow that have been easier to clear from roads, he said. But last week’s storm brought a tough combination of abundant wet snow followed by plunging temperatures.
It contained the most moisture — about an inch equivalent of rainfall — that Omaha has seen since mid-October.
“I would anticipate seeing conditions in residential streets that are going to be pretty variable, some poor some good, and that is going to continue into next week,” McIntyre said.
The city attacked the blizzard as it does any big snowfall — sending its plows out to major thoroughfares and deploying a fleet of private contractors to work residential streets.
That small fleet of private contractors supplements and doesn’t replace city plows, he said. But it has limited effectiveness because most contractors have pickup trucks, not large, heavy equipment.
As a consequence, the approximately 6 inches of snow that fell packed down and froze on a number of streets.
“Almost 100 percent of our calls are about residential streets that are in poor conditions,” he said.
Thursday morning, light snow fell as rush hour peaked, leading to an uptick in fender-benders, according to the City of Omaha’s emergency dispatch center. No serious injuries were reported, but another difficult commute was expected in the evening.
The metro area forecast indicated that snow should last into the night and possibly mix with freezing mist.
Thursday’s high in Omaha is forecast in the mid-20s, but upper air temperatures could be warm enough to allow precipitation to fall as water. Whether the precipitation falls as snow or drizzle, there isn’t a lot of moisture in it.
Dave Fobert, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office that serves the Omaha and Lincoln areas, said a few tenths of an inch of water is expected from Thursday’s weather system.
Omaha crews still are working to break loose the packed snow and ice. They’re putting down a mix of salt and sand to break it loose and following those trucks with plows to loosen and remove the chunks.
This week, Omaha saw its coldest conditions since February 2011 when the low dropped to 1 degree below zero Wednesday morning. The last time Omaha saw below-zero temperatures was 22 months ago.
After a cold, single-digit night Friday, temperatures in Omaha are forecast to warm up and could flirt with 30 degrees this weekend. Skies are forecast to be clear to partly clear.
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Video: Major Jim Suttle held a press conference today to discuss the City’s efforts to clear snow-covered and icy streets due to last week’s storm.
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