December 20, 2014

Bitter cold, snow descend on Nebraska

SnowWhat a difference a day makes.

Bitterly cold temperatures swept into Nebraska overnight, bringing a bit of snow with it, making for a white Veterans Day.

Temperatures plummeted throughout the state.

It was 58 degrees in Omaha on Monday; 28 today. In Lincoln, the high Monday reached 56 degrees. The National Weather Service forecasts a high of 29 today. Grand Island had a high on Monday of 50 and is expected to have a high today of 23.

The Panhandle has taken the brunt of the cold. On Monday, the high in Scottsbluff hit 52 degrees. It will struggle to get to 17 today; actual temperature, not the wind chill.

The National Weather Service expects lows in Nebraska this evening to dip down to 7 to 14 degrees in eastern and central Nebraska. Out west, temperatures will plunge to between five above and five below.

This arctic blast out of Canada is expected to settle in for the week. It slowly is moving its way across the country.

Snow fell throughout Nebraska, but just enough to make things white. Snow accumulations are much deeper north of us. St. Augusta, Minnesota reported 16-and-a-half inches of snow.

Mild weather pattern may bring farmers longer harvest season

Corn combineWhile parts of the Nebraska panhandle got two inches of snow last week, most of the state’s been enjoying relatively mild weather so far this November.

Extension climatologist Elwynn Taylor says if the weather pattern holds, most farmers in the region should have at least a couple more weeks to complete the harvest.

“It’s cooperating with us. We’re going to have drier-than-usual conditions, it looks like,” Taylor says. “Things just don’t look bad for finishing up the harvest.”

One of the reasons for the mild weather is due to what’s known as an “El Nino” weather pattern, which Taylor describes as “moderate” in strength.

If it persists into the new year, Taylor says it will bode well for the remaining winter months and the start of the next growing year.

“Once we get past Christmas and New Year’s, if we still have a moderate El Nino and it’s still looking up to strength, it will likely go on right into at least the early part of the growing season and we would consider that good news,” Taylor says.

If the El Nino pattern continues, Taylor says there’s a 70% chance for higher-than-normal corn and soybean yields in 2015.


Just like the Boy Scouts, “be prepared” is good motto for all Nebraskans

Snowplow3Before the weather turns wicked, Nebraskans will be getting a refresher course about what may lie ahead, as today is Winter Weather Awareness Day across Nebraska.

Meteorologist Roger Vachalek, at the National Weather Service, says it’s a good idea to get familiar with the terminology, put fresh batteries in the weather radio and prepare survival kits for your home and car.

“We see a lot of different types of weather from heavy snow to strong winds and cold temperatures and freezing rain,” Vachalek says. “A lot of these can have severe impacts on the region as well as produce life-threatening conditions. This is a great time to touch base with some winter weather terms and procedures for this year.”

While the National Weather Service team makes it a routine to forecast the weather over the next few days, it becomes much more difficult to predict what the weather will be like several weeks — or months — in advance.

“The current outlook for the winter months calls for equal chances of either above-normal or below-normal temperatures so we’re not out of the woods yet,” Vachalek says. “We will have some periods of cold weather but right now we’re on the edge of that change. As far as precipitation goes, we’re still on an equal chance of either above or below normal.”

He urges Nebraskans to familiarize themselves with weather terms like outlooks, watches and warnings.

“We have a hazardous weather outlook that talks about weather up to seven days, if we see there’s a large storm or something of severe impact for our area, we’ll have that highlighted there first,” Vachalek says. “We’ll have watches that are issued, hopefully, a few days ahead of time, and then we’ll issue warnings, so there’s time to ramp up for that and prepare.”

Nebraskans need to stay even more aware and tuned in during the winter months, he says, so they’re not caught off guard in a dangerous situation. Learn more at


Prime archery deer hunting and trout fishing time

white_tailed_deer_0820[1]This is prime time for archery deer hunting.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission spokesman Greg Wagner says deer are on the move now during breeding season. He says cooler temperatures are also in the hunters favor and they should have the best luck during the early morning hours.

Wagner reminds all deer hunters to remember safety first. He says, “Falls from trees outweigh the number of any archery or firearm accidents with deer hunting.”   He says always use a lifeline while climbing and hauling equipment to the stand and then put on the safety harness.

For those who like to fish, Wagner says trout don’t mind the cold weather. He says one of the best locations right now is Standing Bear Lake in northwest Omaha. They just stocked the lake for the third time and there are 10,000 eleven inch rainbow trout just waiting to be caught.

Wagner says state parks and recreation areas are still open to the public but there is one big change all visitors need to be aware of. Due to colder weather they are shutting all water facilities down so the pipes don’t freeze and break. Visitors will have to bring their own water supply.

Natural gas prices may rise “a twitch” this winter

Propane TankWith memories of last winter’s cold blast, some of Nebraska’s natural gas suppliers are looking for what they’re calling insurance. Clyde Gross is the senior gas manager for Northwestern Energy.

“We’re 70% locked in through our traditional ways of locking in,” Gross says. “Because of a scar we have from last winter, not near the big scar the propane guys had last winter, we’ve layered in an extra tier of December, January, February to further protect our customers from the price volatility we saw last year.”

Gross says it looks like natural gas prices will be up slightly this coming winter.

“Probably a nickel a therm,” Gross says. “Most of them use about 600 therms through the winter so that’s (an increase of) about $30 through the course of the winter. The customers, at least in my house, we used more therms than we normally used because it was colder, but the price is going to be just up a twitch.”

Northwestern serves the central Nebraska cities of Grand Island, Kearney and North Platte.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton