Omaha's first snowfall of the season causes slick roads, over 50,000 power outages

Kids played board games by flashlight, folks threw extra logs into the fireplace and at least one couple camped out in the driveway in their heated RV.

The wet, heavy snow that blew through eastern Nebraska on Sunday left thousands without power, yet people remained connected as they shared images via Facebook of their return to what some jokingly described as "pioneer days."

For others, especially the elderly and ill, the loss of power created anxiety and worry as people tried to sort out what to eat and how to stay warm overnight.

At the peak of the storm Sunday afternoon, the Omaha Public Power District reported 57,000 outages, according to spokeswoman Jodi Baker. About 10 p.m., that number remained at 27,000, according to the utility's website.

By 7:45 a.m. Monday, the utility was reporting 4,900 without power, most of those in Douglas County. Virtually all — perhaps 99 percent — should have power restored by midnight Monday, Baker said.

OPPD called in nearly 100 personnel to help with repairs. Additionally, the Nebraska Public Power District sent in crews to assist OPPD with power restoration, said Mark Becker, NPPD spokesman.

Eight school buildings in the Westside Community Schools district remained without power on Sunday night, and were at risk of not holding classes on Monday. The district said it would announce by 6 a.m. Monday if any school buildings were canceling classes.

The outage forced some grocery stores to scramble to save what refrigerated and frozen foods they could.

The Hy-Vee at 5150 Center St. had a generator kick in after losing electricity about 1 p.m., but the generator wasn't enough to power all of its freezers and refrigerators, a manager there said Sunday night.

Workers spent the early afternoon moving food to powered backup storage units on trucks, and what didn't fit had to be thrown out, the manager said.

Electricity was restored there about 8 p.m., he said. He expected the store to be restocked Monday.

The storm set daily records for snowfall, said Scott Dergan, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Omaha officially recorded 1.5 inches of snow, though some areas saw about 3 inches. Lincoln's official total was 3.5 inches. Before Sunday, Lincoln had never recorded snow on Oct. 14, and Omaha had seen only a trace on that date, Dergan said. Weather records date to the late 1800s.

It wasn't either city's earliest snow, he noted. Omaha's earliest snow was Sept. 29, 1985, when three-tenths of an inch fell.


The cold front that accompanied the storm was expected to usher in the season's first killing freeze, with lows forecast to drop into the upper 20s overnight. Delicate plants and flowers will disappear from the landscape, and the freeze may be enough to ease the misery of allergy sufferers.

A much nicer week is in store: Sunshine and highs in the 40s and 50s.

On Sunday, the sight of sagging trees, weighted down by the snow, and the random sounds of cracking of branches brought back memories of the Oct. 24-26, 1997, snowstorm that devastated trees in eastern Nebraska. In that storm, 13 inches of wet, heavy snow fell over two days, littering the ground with fallen trees, broken limbs and downed power poles and wires. At the peak of the 1997 storm, upward of 130,000 homes and businesses and about 300,000 people were without power — many for up to two weeks.

With that storm on their minds, a number of people headed outdoors Sunday to brush snow from their trees.

Omahan Vince Shay was among those. The sunset maple in front of his Dundee/Elmwood Park home still bears the scars from 1997.

"If you don't like interesting weather, you shouldn't live in Nebraska," Shay mused.

A block or two east, neurosurgeon Steve Doran took a chainsaw to a fallen maple branch.

"Not a good combination," he quipped as he cleared the branch from the driveway.

Sunday's storm brought the most outages OPPD has seen since June 2017, when storms bearing powerful straight-line winds and tornadoes caused 76,000 outages.

Other hazards from Sunday's storm included power lines starting fires after contacting trees in several locations, and tree limbs blocking roadways.

Many traffic lights were not working. By early afternoon, there had been enough fender-benders on snow-slickened streets that the Omaha Police Department stopped responding to minor property damage collisions.

The Nebraska State Patrol reported that it assisted more than 100 drivers on the state's roadways Sunday and responded to dozens of crashes.

Sunday's snow also caused cancellation of events and early closings. The "Support the Girls" breast cancer awareness event in Elkhorn was postponed to Saturday. Vala's Pumpkin Patch closed about 2 p.m. due to safety concerns.

"We were having some branches falling, and it was just unsafe to have people on the farm," Jan Vala said. "People were here having fun, but safety comes first."

The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium announced that its "Spooktacular" was canceled. Guests who pre-purchased tickets for the event will be contacted by the zoo's marketing department.

The storm blanketed much of the state. In northwest Nebraska, 5 to 7 inches of snow was reported. The 3 inches that fell in Valentine was enough to set a daily record there, according to the weather service. The previous record had been a trace of snow.

Bitterly cold weather was forecast across much of western Nebraska, and the weather service warned that wind chills could drop below zero in some parts of the state by Monday morning.

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See the origial full article at: https://www.omaha.com/news/metro/omaha-s-first-snowfall-of-the-season-causes-slick-roads/article_e04e6ad3-d38c-582f-a70f-e2d7c0dd737b.html

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