City workers are continuing to clear snow from Omaha streets, and the mayor on Thursday asked residents to be patient.
With a half-inch more snow falling on top of last week's difficult-to-plow — and now hard-packed — snow, city officials said the white stuff could remain a headache into next week.
“The snow was so wet, the snow came down so quickly, that it basically has turned into an ice event,” Mayor Jim Suttle said.
Suttle said Omahans who want to report poor street conditions should use the city's app, go to the city's website or call the Mayor's Hotline at 402-444-5555.
Given the low temperatures, the best hope for improved street conditions is increased sunshine, said Scott McIntyre, Omaha street maintenance engineer.
Warmer weather wouldn't hurt, either.
“In most cases, people are able to get around,” he said. “The best thing we can do is continue to go back to treat (icy) areas until Mother Nature helps us out.”
Except for Christmas Day, public works crews have worked around the clock to clear Omaha's streets since the Dec. 19-20 storm. McIntyre said crews have visited every street at least once.
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 storm as it does any big snowfall: sending its plows to major thoroughfares and deploying a fleet of private contractors to work residential streets.
That small fleet supplements and doesn't replace city plows, he said. But it has limited effectiveness because most private 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.
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.
“Almost 100 percent of our calls are about residential streets that are in poor condition,” he said.
Many Omahans are eager for those streets to be cleared.
Miranda Bouck said conditions in her Benson neighborhood mean she has to drive a mile out of her way to get to work.
“I would rate our plowing good, but not good enough,” she said.
Rich Vomacka, who lives near 55th and Grover Streets, said the city flunked this storm.
“It was a different type of snow, but the forecast said it was going to rain and slush and then change to snow — so there's your clue, man. It's pretty simple,” he said.
Today's high in Omaha is forecast in the mid-20s, about the same as Thursday, with a few flurries. After a cold, single-digit night tonight, temperatures are expected to increase and could flirt with 30 degrees this weekend. Skies will be clear to partly clear.
This week, Omaha saw its coldest conditions since February 2011 when the mercury dropped to 1 below zero Wednesday morning. The last time Omaha saw below-zero temperatures was 22 months ago.
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