Feeling the freeze: Icy and cold weather causes headaches for residents

January 20, 2019

Columbus residents were reminded Friday that weather can be pretty deceptive at times.

Streets in town throughout the day certainly weren’t blanketed with the 5-plus inches of snow forecasted earlier in the week, however, the continual drizzly precipitation throughout the day caused a thin sheet of treacherous ice that at a glance didn’t look too hazardous but did cause some problems.

During the course of the afternoon, the Columbus Police Department reported three fender-bender-type accidents attributed to the weather.

Warren Racely, highway maintenance superintendent for the Northeast Nebraska Roads District, said he had about 30 crew members tending to the icy conditions in Columbus, Humphrey, Albion and Clarkson.

Racely said that crews tackled the conditions throughout the day by dispersing salt on numerous roadways in their territory. While the amount of projected snow never happened, Racely said that the misty, rainy conditions resulted in a continual freeze throughout the day.

“It was pretty normal for freezing drizzle, so we were pretty much able to stay on top of it,” he said. “You just have to treat it, but then it melts and refreezes again, so you just have to keep making the rounds.”

Four crew members were scheduled to tend to the roads throughout the nighttime hours Friday leading into today, treating main thoroughfares of travel like U.S. Highway 30 and U.S. Highway 81. There is a 24-hour treatment to these centers of travel, he said, noting that another in-town road cleaning happens daily from 4 a.m. through 8 p.m. during inclement weather conditions.

Suzanne Fortin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Valley, said that Columbus likely saw the worst of the conditions throughout Friday night and early today, noting that about a half-inch to an inch of snow accumulation is likely.

“Really the most dangerous time is now through the evening (Friday) and overnight hours,” she said. “So in the Columbus area, obviously the roads have been hazardous and slick with the light freezing drizzle that fell covering surfaces ... It will linger for the rest of the afternoon (Friday) and then we are expecting an uptick in snow (during the night).”

She noted that much of the expected precipitation was diverted between two other state weather systems pulling moisture away from the area. Later today through Monday morning should be pretty dry, she said, adding that on Monday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) some precipitation could pick up later in the evening.

Even though the weather won’t result in a dumping of snow, Fortin warned area residents to use caution if forced to be outside in the elements.

“Even though we may not have a lot of snow or ice on the ground, the combination of the wind and temperatures will make it feel very raw out there,” she said.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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