The snow that fell early Thursday has moved out of the Omaha metro area but not before it led school districts to cancel Thursday classes and mucked up the morning commute.
Just before noon, Austin Rowser, Omaha's street maintenance engineer, said major streets had been cleared and city crews were working on secondary streets. Contractors still were working on neighborhood streets, he said.
Rowser said his staff estimated that 4.5 to 5 inches of snow fell around Omaha overnight. The weather service said Springfield reported 7.5 inches, Gretna reported 6.9 inches, Millard reported 6 and Papillion reported 5 and Bellevue reported 4.3. Eppley Airfield reported 1.8 inches.
The weather service said there's a 30 percent chance of snow and freezing drizzle after 3 p.m.
If freezing rain moves in, "we'll keep an eye on it," Rowser said. Crews already had salt down on major streets.
About 100 City of Omaha workers were out plowing and treating major and secondary roads.
The timing of the snow didn't help matters, Rowser said around 7:30 a.m. “Rush-hour snow is terrible,” he said.
Roughly 175 contractor plow trucks started on residential streets at 8 a.m. They will have 12 hours to clear side streets, he said.
Once residential streets are cleared, Rowser said, city trucks will spread sand to help traction.
Bryon Miller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Valley, said light drizzle could fall until midafternoon.
The drizzle shouldn’t cause a problem for snow-covered streets, he said, but cleared pavement could turn icy.
Preliminary measurements show snow accumulation was on the higher end of predictions in the Omaha area and in spots south and west of the metro.
“There was a band of heavier snow that set up from Seward across Lincoln and down toward parts southeast of Lincoln,” Miller said.
As of 6 a.m., Eppley Airfield had received 1.2 inches, Valley reported 3.5 inches and Lincoln had 4 inches, Miller said.
Richard Behrens, who lives in the Florence neighborhood, reported 2.7 inches of snow at 8 a.m. A Papillion resident reported 6 inches of snow, and a person in Ralston reported 5.5 inches.
The Interstate system was snow-packed. A drive from 108th and Fort Streets to downtown Omaha that started around 6:45 a.m. took about 45 minutes, approximately 15 minutes longer than normal.
Kevin Grace left his home in Dundee around 5:45 a.m. to get to his job in Lincoln. Dodge Street, he said, was slick between the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus and 72nd Street.
"I almost lost control and was maybe doing 25," he said. "Getting on the Interstate just west of Westroads was really bad."
Drivers were going about 35 mph on the Interstate. Visibility, he said, was so bad that he got off the Interstate at Pacific Street to clean off his snow-covered windshield wipers. Grace got back on Interstate 680, heading west and saw several cars that had pulled off the Interstate and were on the shoulder.
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Grace turned around at Nebraska Crossing to head home because he didn't think it was worth it to risk the drive to Lincoln. He made it back to Dundee safely.
The Nebraska State Patrol tweeted photos from a bad crash involving semitrailer trucks on Interstate 80 near Aurora. No one was injured in the crash, the patrol said.
Schools in the metro area closed Thursday: Omaha Public Schools, Millard, Westside, Papillion-La Vista, Elkhorn, Bellevue, Gretna, Ralston, Omaha Catholic schools, Council Bluffs, Douglas County West, Lincoln, Plattsmouth, Springfield Platteview and St. John the Baptist, plus others.
The Boys State Basketball Championships in Lincoln were still on, however.
More closings are listed here.
A few arriving flights and a few departing ones were delayed at Eppley Airfield, and one departing flight was canceled, but most flights were listed as on time on Eppley's website, flyoma.com. Travelers should check that website for more information.
In Lincoln, city officials said 4 inches of snow fell instead of the 1 to 2 inches that had been expected. As a result, Mayor Chris Beutler declared a snow emergency and parking ban, which is in effect on both sides of emergency snow routes, arterial streets and bus and school routes until further notice.
Snow and rain are expected for Friday evening into Saturday. The chance for snow starts Friday evening and then switches over to mostly rain Saturday, forecasters said. The storm could finish out as a rain/snow mix Saturday evening.
Another storm system is expected to move through early next week.
World-Herald staff writer Erin Grace contributed to this report.