Nebraskans brace for snow and, perhaps, a big snowstorm as the first winter weather hits the state.
Gov. Dave Heineman says Nebraskans need to take this storm seriously.
“We want to emphasize that during a winter storm, blowing and drifting snow can cause reduced visibility and affect road conditions,” Heineman tells reporters during a news conference in his office at the Capitol. “One of the primary concerns is the winter weather’s ability to knock out heat, power and communication services sometimes for days at a time.”
Heineman says there are steps residents can take to keep safe. Prepare ahead of time. Listen to weather forecasts regularly. Check emergency supplies. Stockpile a week’s worth of food and safety supplies.
Snow began falling this morning in the southern part of the Panhandle as the snowstorm entered the state from the southeastern plains of Colorado. As much as two inches of snow was already on the ground early in the morning. Forecasts call for four-to-five inches of snow over much of the state, with as much as eight inches of snow in some regions.
Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Assistant Director Al Berndt expects the southern third of the state to get hit hard.
“But, basically you can take that Interstate 80 corridor and look south down into Kansas and see that there’s going to be snow and blizzard-like conditions,” according to Berndt.
Travelers are advised to listen to their local radio station for the latest on the weather. Check 5-1-1, the Nebraska Advanced Traveler Information System, for road conditions. The system also provides road conditions in neighboring states.
A car should contain an emergency kit as well with a first-aid kit, ice scraper, shovel, small bag of sand, flashlight with batteries, blankets, bottled water, non-perishable food, jumper cables, and a fully charged cell phone. You can access the Department of Roads website for more information.
Nebraska State Patrol Colonel David Sankey has a few tips for travelers.
“If you must travel in extreme weather conditions, the patrol has a few reminders,” Sankey says. “Always wear your seat belt. Never drive faster than conditions allow. Never use cruise control in wet, slick or snowpack conditions. Increase your following distance so that you can react to other vehicles around you. Drive with your headlights on. Make sure your vehicle is clear of all snow.”
It is a good idea to let others know where you are going, the route you plan to take and when you expect to arrive.
Stay with your car if stranded. You can run the engine for a few minutes every hour to reheat the interior. Make sure the exhaust isn’t blocked and keep a window cracked to prevent carbon monoxide build-up.
Nebraska Department of Roads Director Randy Peters says his department has been preparing for this.
“Our district maintenance forces are keeping an eye on the satellite, of course. They’ve made sure that their supply of salt is well stocked for this in case there is lingering ice conditions or pre-ice conditions,” Peters says. “We have the schedule shifts lined up for who’s going to go and operate the snow plows. So, they’re standing ready.”
The storm is expected to linger until early Thursday morning.
AUDIO: Gov. Heineman holds news conference on winter weather preparations. [13:30]