Mother Nature celebrated Nebraska Winter Weather Awareness Day on Thursday in the most fitting way: by bringing snow.
Snow flurries on Thursday touched down in Columbus, however, other parts of the state were expected to receive several inches. With winter set to officially commence in late December, Columbus Emergency Management Director Tim Hofbauer said it’s important for community members to already start preparing for severe winter weather and driving conditions. Nebraska Winter Weather Awareness Day is a day dedicated to raising awareness on winter preparedness.
Community members can expect a 30-percent chance of snow before noon today, according to forecasts from the National Weather Service, followed by gradual temperature decreases to 18 degrees by 5 p.m. The weather is expected to fluctuate from sunny and cloudy throughout the weekend and over the course of next week.
Jeremy Wesely, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Hastings, said the Columbus area shouldn’t expect much snow in the coming week. But, he noted, the area will likely be more prone to snowfall from December through February.
“There’s going to be brutal cold days, as always in Nebraska,” he said.
As temperatures begin to drop, Hofbauer said community members can expect icier road conditions, too. Driving slow is key, he said, adding drivers should anticipate the movement of surrounding traffic and maintain a safe distance between other vehicles when stopping.
Hofbauer said residents should keep a close eye on weather forecasts before planning trips, noting severe snow storms and days with a high volume of snow don’t occur unexpectedly.
NDOT officials, in a release, urged drivers to be cautious and courteous to those operating snowplows along roads. They said vehicles should be traveling less than 30 mph as they approach plows and to never pass the equipment on the right because its wing plows extend beyond the truck itself.
The Nebraska State Patrol Highway Helpline is available 24 hours daily to motorists in need of assistance. Those seeking assistance are encouraged to dial *55 or call 911.
Home preparation is just as important as road safety, Hofbauer said.
Power outages are common during snow storms and blizzards, he noted. Because of that, Hofbauer said residents should remain indoors and make sure they are stocked with basic necessities like flashlights, batteries, food, water, baby items and medicine. He said people should make sure the propane tanks to their homes are filled appropriately for heat and hot water before a storm, as opposed to waiting until there is a potential threat. Hofbauer said supplies tend to run low during these situations, especially in rural communities.
In the past, Hofbauer said there were times where rural fire department officers had to deliver medicine to people who were running low on supply and snowed in at home.
“It all comes down to personal responsibility to be ready for that event,” he said.
Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.