Weekend storm results in lots of postponements

December 4, 2018

It was one of those “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” kind of decisions to make.

The Norfolk Men’s Chorus was slated to present its annual Christmas concert on Sunday afternoon at the Johnny Carson Theatre, but Saturday’s wintry weather — and uncertain forecast — was interrupting plans.

“If you postpone it too soon and nothing happens, then you look foolish,” said Ron Lofgren, the director of the chorus. “But I don’t think anyone was second guessing our decision this time around.”

The Christmas concert was one of numerous events in Norfolk and the area that was postponed or canceled because of the pre-winter storm that especially hit hard areas to the north and west of Norfolk.

The men’s chorus performance has been postponed to Saturday, Dec. 22, at 3 p.m., Lofgren said.

“We’ll definitely be hoping for better weather,” he said Monday morning.

The snow that did fall in Norfolk was heavy and wet, helping the city receive a record amount of precipitation in the snowstorm.

According to the National Weather Service, the community received 1.46 inches of precipitation on Saturday, a new record that wiped out the previous maximum of 1.10, which was set in 1909.

Saturday’s snowfall total marked at Norfolk Regional Airport was 5 inches, and another 0.70 inches fell Sunday. Jim Bahm of Woodland Park said he received 7 inches of snow from the storm.

Communities to the north and west of Norfolk received even more snowfall.

The weekend storm was accompanied by winds gusting out of the northeast up to 48 miles per hour on Saturday and up to 41 miles per hour from the north on Sunday.

The City of Norfolk responded to the weekend’s snow fall by putting a new snow removal plan into action.

Steve Rames, city engineer, said the city changed its snow removal operations procedure this year, and this was the first chance to implement it.

Under the original plan, snow plow crews would work from about 2 a.m. to about 5 p.m. But if snowfall started in the afternoon, there could be a period where no snow plows would be on the street for up to 12 hours.

The city is now working to cover any potential gaps by training a second crew of snow plow operators to cover the gap from the late afternoon to 2 a.m.

Rames said the second crew primarily works to clear major streets and emergency routes. When the larger crew takes over in the early morning, they are able to clear the streets and move into neighborhoods much more quickly.

“I think we saw that happen in this event,” Rames said. “We had the second crew begin in the early afternoon Saturday and help keep emergency routes clear and prevent snow packing.”

Rames said not only does snow packing make roads more hazardous, it also accelerates deterioration of the road itself.

The impression among plow operators and city staff is that the new system appeared to work as intended, Rames said.

“We’ll look at the decisions and see what we need to tweak. We have to approach every snow event different,” Rames said. “But I think it worked out very well this time.”

Madison County Commissioner Ron Schmidt of rural Humphrey said some county workers worked on clearing roads all weekend, trying to make sure people could get to church worship services and other activities. There are lots of rural churches in his district, he said.

“For the most part, the north-south roads around Madison in the country were passable,” Schmidt said. “Some of the east-west roads were out or had (limited travel), especially those that had bean fields on the north side.”

There was a lot of ice, with some people reporting up to an inch and three-fourths of rain before the snow began Saturday morning, he said. For as long as it snowed, ice was more of the problem. Crews were out again Monday to work on roads, Schmidt said.

“I would say for the most part, drivers slowed down (or didn’t go out). I certainly appreciate that,” he said.

Cody Thomas, public relations director for the Nebraska State Patrol, said Monday morning that as of noon Sunday, there had more than 200 incidents and accidents statewide relating to the storm.

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