• Weather info: Forecast, road conditions, parking regulations, local reminders
• What's closed?: Updated list of closings and cancellations
• Photos: Blizzard slams Omaha
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The following schools will be closed Thursday due to the storm: Omaha Public Schools, Millard, Elkhorn, Ralston, Council Bluffs, Bellevue, Omaha Catholic schools, Westside, Papillion-La Vista, Lewis Central Community School District and Lincoln Public Schools. Creighton University will open two hours late on Thursday starting at 10 a.m.
Snow is coming to an end in eastern Nebraska and has stopped falling in Omaha, where thousands of residents are without power.
The number of Omaha Public Power District customers reporting outages continues to grow.
Nearly 41,000 customers were without service as of 8 a.m., said spokeswoman Paula Lukowski. Most -- 28,000 -- were in Douglas County; another 6,700 were in Sarpy County.
Most of the outages were ongoing since overnight. However, fresh outages are occurring as strong winds and broken tree limbs bring down power lines.
OPPD is urging people to stay away from downed lines.
Additional crews have been called in. Lukowski said the utility hopes to have a clearer idea of the scope of repairs later today, but expected it to be a "multi-day" effort.
While some outages were caused by vehicles striking power poles, Lukowski attributed most downed lines to wet snow and strong winds. Strong winds are causing power lines to "gallop."
Customers needing to report an outage are asked to call 1-800-554-6773. An earlier OPPD advisory listed an incorrect number.
In Iowa, MidAmerica Energy is dealing with nearly 35,000 outages, most of them in Des Moines. Roughly 2,800 customers were without power in the greater Council Bluffs area.
Tina Potthoff, a spokeswoman for MidAmerican Energy, said all customers in the Council Bluffs area should have power back on by 10 p.m. tonight.
"Pretty much for us it is all hands on deck," she said. "We are evaluating the option of calling in crews from out of state at this time.”
Iowans who have lost power area asked to report it at 1-800-799-4443. Also, those digging out are asked not to throw snow against gas meters as they are digging out, as this may damage them.
"We really want to make sure they are not throwing snow, or chipping at that particular device to try to get the ice off it," Potthoff said.
Travel on Interstate 80 just outside Omaha to Wyoming is tough. On some stretches, travelers can drive only east or west. Other stretches are shut down in both directions.
Within Omaha, I-80 is slick but traffic is moving slowly. Several cars can be seen in the ditches.
Omaha-Lincoln commuters should prepare for low visibility between Omaha and the Platte River area, according to the Nebraska State Patrol. I-80 west to Utica is closed. From Utica to Wyoming, travel is shut down in both directions.
Omaha's snow removal crews are likely to finish plowing residential streets by Friday.
Scott McIntyre, the city's street maintenance engineer, said all major roads, including Dodge Street, had been cleared by this morning. Even so, most streets remain at least a little snow covered due to wind.
McIntyre said roughly 100 pieces of equipment were used to deal with the storm. That includes snow plows, loaders and salt trucks.
McIntyre said city workers began prepping for the storm yesterday and would work around the clock until the job is done.
"You've got to drive a little slower," he warned.
Interstate 480 was covered with snow and patches of ice just before 6 a.m. Law enforcement agencies across the area reported similar conditions on Interstate 80 in both Nebraska and Iowa.
In Pottawattamie and Sarpy counties, traffic was moving smoothly so far, and no major accidents had been reported.
Conditions in Washington and Cass Counties were a little worse. Washington County dispatchers reported low to zero visibility in areas and travel on several roads and highways was reduced to one lane because of drifting snow. Authorities advised people to stay home if possible.
Cass County reported vehicles sliding into ditches along many roadways.
The Nebraska State Patrol in Omaha reported a snow-covered I-80, as did the Iowa State Patrol in Atlantic. Both agencies warned of icy patches throughout. Lincoln authorities said some highways, including I-80, are a "sheet of ice."
Iowa patrol dispatchers said there hadn't been any accidents with major injuries as of 6 a.m. Most of the problems they saw overnight involved semi-trailer trucks that either couldn't get up a hill or had jackknifed along the interstate. A dispatcher said it was still snowing in Atlantic this morning.
The Iowa Department of Transportation is advising against travel this morning because conditions remain dangerous across much of the state.
At about 7 a.m., Missouri officials closed Interstate 29 between the Iowa border and the northern edge of St. Joseph. Although conditions have improved in the Omaha area, travel through northwest Missouri and into the Kansas City area is being discouraged by Missouri officials.
Metro transit pulled its buses off the streets in Omaha and Council Bluffs Wednesday night because of slick roads. Several buses became stuck, according to Metro dispatchers. As of 7 a.m., general bus service is running in the metro area, with some exceptions.
Because of the difficult road conditions, some buses are running late especially those that travel neighborhood roads, according to Metro.
MOBY paratransit service will not start until 9 a.m., according to Metro. General bus service for routes 22, 25, 26, 32, and 35 will not start until later this morning. Metro has not yet scheduled a start for those routes.
Dave Fobert, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said Omaha officially received 5.9 inches of snow. That total is based on readings at Eppley Airfield.
The National Weather Service lifted Omaha's blizzard warning at about 6 a.m., and a less serious winter weather advisory remains in effect until noon.
Cloudy skies should gradually clear today and the high is expected to reach the low 20s.
With winds between 15 mph and 25 mph, gusting to possibly 35 mph, wind chills are likely to be near zero, Fobert said.
Overnight, winds blew at about 25 mph to 35 mph and the peak gust recorded at Valley, Neb., reached 52 mph, Fobert said.
Iowa continues to experience the full force of the blizzard, and power outages in the Hawkeye state are expected to worsen through this morning, according to the National Weather Service.
Whiteout conditions and drifting snow are expanding as snowfall rates pick and winds remain powerful.
Moderate to heavy snowfall is expected in Iowa through mid-morning, with snowfall rates sometimes reaching 1 to 2 inches an hour.
Sustained wind speeds of 30 mph to 40 mph are likely with winds gusting to more than 50 mph.
The blizzard warning there remains in effect.
By 10 a.m., snow is expected to be drifting several feet deep.
Snow totals in Iowa are forecast to reach 8 to 12 inches by late morning, with locally higher amounts possible.
Tranquil weather is around the corner. After this system moves out, the weather will be cold and clear into the weekend.
Another storm is forecast to hit the central U.S. sometime on or after Christmas Day.
Forecasters say it is too early to know where the storm will strike, but early models are hinting that it could move across the southern part of the central U.S. before heading northeast, according to AccuWeather Inc. If that happens, Nebraska and western Iowa may be spared a second hit.
The heavy snowfall Wednesday set a daily record in Omaha for precipitation, according to the National Weather Service. The total, melted precipitation for Wednesday was 0.81 inches, based on measurements at Eppley Airfield. The previous Dec. 19 record was .76 inches set in 1881.
World-Herald staff writers Emerson Clarridge, Roseann Moring, Emily Nohr and Jay Withrow contributed to this report.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1102, email@example.com
Snow emergencies in Omaha, Council Bluffs
The City of Omaha declared a snow emergency. The declaration means the city's odd/even parking regulations for residential streets east of 72nd Street will go into effect. The goal is to make it easier to clear side streets of snow.
On even-numbered days, vehicles must be parked on the side of the street with even-numbered addresses, and the opposite on odd-numbered days. Those found in violation will be ticketed starting at noon Thursday, Mayor Jim Suttle's office said.
The Council Bluffs snow emergency is in effect to 6 p.m. Thursday. The city's emergency parking ban applies to all streets posted as snow emergency routes.
The odd/even parking ban will take effect at 6 a.m. today and remain until 5 p.m. Friday. Vehicles in violation of the parking ban are subject to fines and towing at the owners' expense.
The Papillion snow emergency will be in effect until 5 p.m. today.
La Vista declared a snow emergency.
During this time, residents are being asked to not park their vehicles on the street, allowing for the safe passage of snow crews.
Police responding to injury accidents only
Omaha police have stopped responding to property damage traffic accidents until further notice.
Police will continue to respond to injury accidents and those involving disabled vehicles or vehicles blocking traffic.
For all other accidents, drivers should exchange insurance information.