Omaha cancels New Year’s Eve fireworks show due to cold

December 29, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Cold arctic air dipping further south than usual prompted Omaha, Nebraska, officials to cancel a New Year’s Eve fireworks show as a three-day deep freeze chills celebrations in Iowa and Nebraska.

The National Weather Service is warning of hazardous weather conditions as a deep freeze sets in with expected temperatures in some locations dipping near records not seen in more than 130 years.

Forecasters expect some snow over the next few days in portions of Iowa and Nebraska but said the extreme cold presents a more pressing danger.

“Messaging will go out and include warning of being outside for any period of time as this is some of the coldest air the region has seen in several years,” weather service meteorologists said in Friday’s forecast discussion.

Des Moines temperatures were expected to drop to minus 4 (minus 20 Celsius) Friday night and stay below zero until Tuesday.

“It’s pretty unusual to get that long of a streak where it’s completely below zero,” said Iowa’s State Climatologist Harry Hillaker. “Historically, that doesn’t happen very often in Des Moines.”

The New Year’s Day forecast high of minus 5 is just a degree above the city’s coldest high temperature for New Year’s Day set in 1885. The expected low Monday night of minus 16 (minus 26 Celsius) is just two degrees higher than the record for the day set in 1887.

A similar story will unfold in Omaha where New Year’s Day high of minus 1 is just four degrees above the day’s record set in 1885 and the low of minus 12 is just seven degrees above the record low set the night of Jan. 1, 1887.

In Omaha temperatures are too cold for the 18th annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks Spectacular so officials postponed it to Jan. 6, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The event draws around 30,000 people to a mall to watch the outdoor display.

“The safety of the public is our greatest concern, and with the possibility of dangerously low temperatures, we feel it is the best interest of the community to reschedule this year’s fireworks show,” said Marc Nichols, executive director for Downtown Omaha Inc.

Des Moines city officials closed a downtown outdoor skating plaza Friday and said it won’t reopen until Tuesday when the city is expected to emerge from sub-zero temperatures reaching a high of 12. The current forecast calls for Omaha to also reach the teens Tuesday after spending 67 hours below zero nowhere near the record streak of 204 hours below zero set in 1983.

At Folken Feedyards about 90 miles northwest of Omaha near Leigh, Nebraska, Chuck Folken is preparing his crew of eight full-time employees and a part-time worker to put in long days throughout the New Year’s holiday to make sure the 7,500 cattle in his feedlot have fresh water and plenty of food to endure the bitter cold.

Keeping the cattle fed, equipment running and water tanks thawed takes extra labor, he said.

“You got to dig pretty deep sometimes on these cold mornings to get out there and get started. We have to start early. Sometimes it’s dark when we start and dark when we quit,” he said. “The cattle are doing really well, though. The cattle eat good when it’s cold like this.”

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