A large winter storm system spun over the Northern and Central Rocky Mountains over the weekend, bringing heavy snows to much of the Central Plains. By the time the snow finally made its way out of the area Monday, nearly a foot of the white stuff was on the ground in much of central and north central Nebraska.
The storm caused nearly white-out conditions at times, and snow and ice packed roads made travel difficult - if not impossible - in some areas. While a section of Interstate 80 between Cozad and Gothenburg was closed Sunday afternoon, local officials say the impact of the storm was less severe in Custer County.
“The impact on our county roads was not as severe as the forecast had predicted,” said Custer County Highway Superintendent Chris Jacobsen. “The wind was not as severe and as much of a factor as had been predicted. When you get 5-7 inches of snow and the ground and 30-mile-an-hour winds you have problems. Luckily, we didn’t have that.”
Jacobsen says there were no road closures in the county due to the storm and the department did not receive any calls from anyone with major problems.
He says his crews worked throughout the day Sunday to maintain the primary roads, and began full operations early Monday morning. Jacobsen says many local townships requested the crew wait until Tuesday to clean up their areas, when all the snow and wind had subsided.
Custer County Sheriff Dan Osmond reported only one accident over the weekend, other than cars sliding off the road. That accident involved a vehicle hitting a snow plow. Osmond says his department responded to only a few reports of vehicles off the road Saturday and Sunday.
The storm forced the closing of every school in the area Monday, with many schools also having a late start Tuesday morning. Nearly all events in the area scheduled for Sunday or Monday were also cancelled or postponed.
The National Weather Service in North Platte reports snowfall amounts, as of 10 a.m. Monday morning, generally ranging from 5 to 7 inches across most of western and north central Nebraska. The Panhandle received the least amount where only 1 to 3 inches was reported, while areas of southern Custer County reported nearly a foot of snow. Reports of a foot or more of snow were common along and east of Highway 281.
Once the snow had fallen there was little chance of it melting any time soon, as an arctic cold front made its way in behind the storm, prompting high temperatures in the single digits and lows well below zero throughout the early part of the week. With the substantial cold pack in place, temperatures plummeted to -10 to -20 degrees in some areas Tuesday night.
Listed below are some of the areas snowfall totals for the weekend, as reported by the NWS in North Platte.
Anselmo - 7 inches
North Platte - 7.3 inches
Mason City - 9 inches
Taylor - 7.5 inches
Berwyn - 9 inches
Burwell - 10 inches
Mullen - 5 inches
While now report for Broken Bow was listed with the NWS, Jacobsen says he measured 7 inches prior to the wind moving the snow around. Locally heavier amounts of 8 to 10 inches were reported for Custer County.
With back to back weekend snow storms, and snow forecast for the coming weekend as well, the National Weather Service reminds readers of the following safety information.
Be aware that you may lose heat, power, or phone service for several days. Make sure you have enough supplies to last if the storm goes on for more than one day. Make sure to have…
* First aid supplies.
* Flashlight, battery powered AM/FM or NOAA weather radio, and extra batteries.
* Extra food and water. Have high calorie foods that require no cooking or refrigeration.
* Extra medicine and items to take care of infants and the elderly.
* Emergency heating source, such as a fireplace, wood stove, or space heater.
* Heating fuel. Fuel carriers may not be able to reach you for days after a winter storm.
* Fire extinguisher and smoke alarm.
* Shelter, food, and water for any pets.
On the Farm or Ranch . . .
* Move animals to sheltered areas.
* Haul extra feed to nearby feeding areas.
* Have plenty of water available for the animals.
In Vehicles . . .
* Make sure to fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season.
* Always check the latest weather reports and forecasts before heading out on the road.
* Plan out your trip and let someone know of your timetable and primary and alternate routes.
* Avoid traveling alone.
* Never let your gas tank get close to empty, to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
Always carry a WINTER STORM SURVIVAL KIT!
* Compass and road maps
* Mobile phone, charger, and batteries
* Blankets/sleeping bags, and extra clothes
* Flashlight and extra batteries
* First aid kit
* High calorie, nonperishable foods
* Small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water
* Water container
* Sand or cat litter for traction and a shovel
* Tool kit, knife, battery booster cables, and tow rope
* Windshield scraper
When Caught in a Storm . . .
When a winter storm strikes, the best thing to do is take shelter inside of your home or another building and to avoid travel. Unfortunately, there are times when this isn’t always possible. Below are safety tips if you are inside, outside, or stranded in your vehicle during a winter storm.
If inside . . .
* Stay inside!
* When using an alternate heat source, such as a fireplace, wood stove, or space heater, make sure to use safeguards and properly ventilate.
If no heat is available . . .
* Close off rooms which are not needed.
* Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors or around windows.
* Cover the windows at night.
* Be sure to eat and drink. It is essential to prevent dehydration and to give your body energy to produce heat.
If caught outside . . .
* Find Shelter!
* Try to stay dry.
* Cover all exposed body parts.
If no shelter is available . . .
* Build a lean-to, windbreak, or snow cave for protection from the wind.
* Build a fire for heat and to attract attention. Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
* Melt snow for drinking water.
If caught inside a vehicle . . .
* Stay inside your vehicle!
* Don’t panic!
* Attempting to walk for help in a winter storm can be a deadly decision.
* You could become quickly disorientated in wind-driven snow and cold.
* Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat, but be sure to open a window a bit for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
* Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
* Occasionally, vigorously move your arms, legs, fingers, and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.
Be visible to rescuers . . .
* Turn on the dome light at night when running the car.
* Tie a colored cloth to your antenna or door.
* After snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.