In the midst of one of Omaha's driest winters on record, the season's largest snow delivered a disappointing amount of water.
But that's no reason to despair, according to the nation's leading drought research institute.
Snowfall in the Omaha area ranged from 3 inches to 5 inches, and the water contained in that snow ranged from about one-fifth to one-third of an inch, according to the National Weather Service.
Precipitation is running about 25 percent of normal, while total snow is about 60 percent of normal.
Brian Fuchs, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, said there's no need to worry, now, about drought in the Midlands — for several reasons.
Yes, winter has been dry, Fuchs said.
And yes, Omaha and eastern Nebraska/western Iowa are considered to be in near-drought condition by the drought center.
But better a lack of moisture now than later in the spring.
Fuchs said winter is the driest time of year, so when less-than-normal moisture accumulates, the deficits aren't that large in real terms.
Also, the soil in this region was replenished with rain last fall before it froze. That water still is locked up in the ground, he said, and will be available for growing plants when the spring thaw occurs.
And those worrisome cracks in the ground? They aren't the result of a lack of moisture, but instead result from water bound up in the soil, he said. This winter's freezing temperatures have caused that moist soil to crack apart. If the soil were dry, he said, it wouldn't be cracking.
The drought center is housed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
As welcome as the snow has been to people hungry for a taste of winter, it caused headaches for commuters Tuesday night and slowed driving Wednesday morning. It also led area school districts to cancel Wednesday classes.
Despite the many traffic accidents that accompanied the storm, only one weather-related traffic death is known to have occurred in eastern Nebraska or western Iowa.
The death occurred shortly after noon on Tuesday near Ashland, Neb. Arlin Kasuske, 36, of Ashland was killed when a farm tractor collided with the pickup truck that Kasuske was driving.
Saunders County Sheriff Kevin Stukenholtz said the tractor did not have a cab and the person driving it said he couldn't see in the blowing snow.
In addition, two people were killed in a weather-related crash in the Nebraska Panhandle. The victims were Bruce Evertson, 64, Kimball, and a passenger, Robin Lapaseotes, 56, of Bridgeport.
Evertson was the head of Nebraska's largest oil and gas exploration company. Lapaseotes was a prominent rancher and cattle feeder.
Before Tuesday's storm, Omaha had received three modest snows this winter: 1.4 inches on Saturday; 1.2 inches at the start of January; and a 2-inch snow in December.
The city's last big snow was early last year — 8.8 inches on March 10. The city also had a freak snow at the start of May, when 3.2 inches fell.
May actually was as snowy as December and snowier than January.
The City of Omaha has had 100 snowplows working major and secondary streets, and 100 private contractors working in residential neighborhoods, according to Austin Rowser of the Public Works Department.
The city instituted a snow emergency, which means that parking is banned on major routes east of 72nd Street.
Because of the declaration, anyone who parks on residential streets east of 72nd Street should, by midnight, park on the side of the street with addresses ending in even numbers.
This week's snow does not appear to be a sign of things to come, said Bob Smerbeck, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc.
For storms to bring significant snow or rain to the Midlands, they have to travel far enough south to pick up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. That's what Tuesday's storm did, Smerbeck said.
In the immediate future, other storms aren't expected to travel that far south. Smerbeck said the snow expected this weekend is likely to be relatively light.
Overall, Smerbeck said, the odds favor a drier and slightly colder-than-normal end to February. There's a chance of precipitation picking up in March and April, he said.
World-Herald staff writers Alissa Skelton, Julie Anderson and Kevin Cole contributed to this report.
TEMPERATURES: Temps around zero early Wednesday in the Omaha area, with stiff north winds of 20 mph and gusts up to 30 mph. Wind chills around 22-below zero.
SNOW DEPTHS: Bellevue, 5.2 inches; Offutt Air Force Base, 4 inches; Eppley Airfield, 3.3 inches; Florence neighborhood, 3 inches; Elkhorn area, 3.7 inches; 120th Street and West Center Road, 4.3 inches; 156th and Blondo Streets, 3.6 inches; Papillion, 2.8 inches; Council Bluffs, 4 inches; Ashland, Neb., 5 inches; Lincoln, 4 inches.
ELSEWHERE: Southeast Nebraska into northwest Missouri received the highest area snowfall totals, with Topeka, Kan., east to the Kansas City area getting around 12 inches.
OMAHA AREA FORECAST: A high temp of 8 degrees Wednesday, with north winds diminishing to 10 to 15 mph by afternoon. A low of 10-below zero tonight. A high temp Thursday of 10 degrees, according to Josh Boustead of the National Weather Service Office in Valley.
OMAHA AREA ROAD CONDITIONS: Main thoroughfares plowed, with a slick layer of packed snow left behind Wednesday. Interstate 80 in good condition. Numerous city trucks and private plows working throughout Omaha, including downtown Wednesday. Austin Rowser, assistant street maintenance engineer, said crews "made good progress" Tuesday night, with major roads in good condition Wednesday and plows heading into residential areas to re-attack certain locations. He said crews also were "cleaning up'' intersections and areas downtown where piles of snow were left behind.
ALERT: Omaha shifted into a snow emergency about midnight and the parking emergency should run through most of Thursday, city officials said. Parking on odd side of streets Wednesday; even side Thursday.
ACCIDENTS: Omaha police stopped taking property damage accident reports Wednesday morning. Motorists were urged to pull off roadways and exchange information if there were no injuries.
TRASH PICKUP: Deffenbaugh Industries said it would wrap up Tuesday's missed collections before beginning Wednesday pickups. Any unfinished Wednesday collections will be picked up Thursday, and some Thursday collections may be delayed until Friday. Residents with Thursday collections are urged to have their materials at the curb by 6 a.m. If necessary, Deffenbaugh said it would work Saturday to complete all collections and be back on a regular schedule by Monday. Homeowners are urged to keep their trash cans visible and accessible despite snowy conditions. Missed collections can be reported to the Solid Waste Hotline at 402-444-5238 after 7 p.m.
NEBRASKA ROADS: Panhandle, east-central and eastern Nebraska, use extreme caution when traveling. Just east of Panhandle into central part of state, caution urged on roadways.
IOWA ROADS: Most of state, outside of the northern one-third of Iowa, completely covered to partially covered. Southwest Iowa into the central part of state to southeast completely covered early Wednesday.
ELSEWHERE IN NEBRASKA: 8 degrees below zero in North Platte area, with winds of 5 to 10 mph, producing wind chills of 22- to 24-below zero, according to John Springer of the National Weather Service Office in North Platte. Snow totals: North Platte, 2.8 inches; Deuel County, 3; Custer and Logan Counties, 2; Garden County, 3.5; Ogallala, 2.5; Valentine, 1.3; Mullen, 3.5.
ELSEWHERE IN IOWA: Temps of 1-above zero in Atlantic, Audubon, Denison, Creston, Carroll, according to Jim Lee of the National Weather Service Office in Des Moines. North winds of 20 mph gusting to 30 mph in southwest to central part of state, producing wind chills of 21- to 22-below zero. By midnight, Des Moines area had received 4.7 inches of snow.
La Vista: Effective at noon Tuesday. All vehicles must be removed from roads. More.
Lincoln: Effective at 8 a.m. Tuesday. More.
Glenwood, Iowa: Effective at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Gretna, Neb.: Beginning 3 p.m. Tuesday.