October 25th and 26th marks the 20th anniversary of one of the worst snowstorms of the decade that left thirteen people dead in seven states, including two in Nebraska. Eleven inches to more than a foot of wet, heavy snow fell on the eastern part of the state causing massive power outages and impassable roads. Paula Lukowski with Omaha Public Power District remembers that storm well.
Lukowski says, “The damage stretched from the Kansas border north to Burt and Washington Counties. For OPPD that storm impacted 150,000 customers, which at the time was nearly three-fourths with power outages. It turned out the damage was $13.9 million and our crews were working 16 hour days to get that restored.”
Lukowski says 130 of OPPD’s 350 primary circuits were out and some people were left without power for up to 11 days.
Those living in the storm’s path remember it was a heavy, wet snow. Many of the trees had not yet dropped leaves. That snow building up on the trees was too much and many lost large branches that blocked driveways and city streets. Those trees brought down power lines and power poles that contributed to the massive power outages. It was estimated that storm did $60 million in tree damage in Omaha alone.
Snowfall amount totals ranged across Nebraska but Clay Center reported 23 inches, Orleans 18 inches, Franklin 17 inches in Lincoln up to 14 inches and a foot of snow in Papillion.
Lukowski says that storm was a game changer for OPPD and the implemented a number of new policies moving forward. OPPD improved their call center and the outage management system. They also do a better job drilling and training on how to manage large winter storms. They also have a damage and trouble assessment team that gets out early and give a good picture of the work that needs to be done and how long customers may be without service.