Extreme cold shuts down much of region | Feature
Polar air was shut down or closed early Wednesday night into much of Norfolk and northeastern Nebraska, including businesses, government offices and schools that were not yet closed for the Christmas holiday.
The air temperature reached -19 and the wind chill near -50, according to the National Weather Service in Norfolk. The forecast high for Norfolk on Thursday was -8.
Gusty north-west winds were expected to continue into Friday, with wind chill readings remaining in the -25 to -40 range, although Friday highs are expected to hit the single digits in the Norfolk region.
Madison County Sheriff Todd Volk said there weren’t many weather-related issues Thursday morning as many people appeared to be staying home.
The sheriff’s department handled calls about livestock, including livestock west of Madison. The wind probably blew them through a fence, he said.
“So far everyone is doing well, they are doing their best to feed and take care of the cattle and everything,” said Volk.
Volk said one of his jobs Wednesday morning was to jump-start an employee’s car. That seemed to be one of the biggest casualties of the extreme cold – dead batteries.
Snowplows could be seen in Norfolk on Thursday clearing the little snow that fell and was whipped around by the wind.
Chad Roberts, Norfolk’s water and sanitation director, said the city has not had to deal with broken water mains or frozen pipes since mid-morning.
“I’ll keep my fingers crossed that things don’t go so well for us in the next few days,” said Roberts.
It’s best for homes to have insulated pipes, Roberts said. If not, make sure there are no drafts or cold air getting to them directly.
If there are pipes behind cabinets, it helps in extreme cold to open cabinets and make sure heat is returning to them, he said.
Like Volk, Norfolk Police Captain Michael Bauer said it appeared residents were heeding warnings as he said Wednesday night through Thursday was a mostly “normal” morning for the police department. Regionally, Bauer said, however, law enforcement was responding to a higher number of stuck articulated lorries causing traffic hazards.
And while Norfolk Police hadn’t seen a major spike in accidents since Wednesday, several local residents have reported having had vehicles that wouldn’t start. A representative from AAA Norfolk said around 8:30 a.m. that he had been “out all morning” starting vehicles.
Bauer said that since all patrol vehicles the police division uses are less than 4 years old, the department generally has no problems with patrol vehicles not starting, especially the units that are used continuously.
Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger also said Thursday morning that despite driving snow Wednesday night and cold conditions Thursday, his office has not yet been called to assist with accidents or stranded vehicles.
Stanton County was lucky, he said, since most of the county’s major roads were cleared of snow or ice.
Unger, who was patrolling Highway 35 near Woodland Park Thursday morning, said he saw minimal traffic on the road, a nod to local residents staying home in dangerous weather conditions.
In addition to providing vehicles with appropriate clothing, blankets and a full tank of gas, Unger said it is of the utmost importance for motorists to stay with their vehicles when they are stranded on the road and calling for help.
Drivers may call their local law enforcement agency or the Nebraska State Patrol Highway Helpline at *55 for assistance.
While areas of northeast and north-central Nebraska had favorable travel conditions, other areas such as Knox County indicated Thursday morning road conditions were dangerous. Norman Doerr reported 2 inches of snowfall in Creighton and an air temperature of -20.
Knox County Sheriff Don Henery asked residents not to travel until the streets were cleared. Henery said the Knox County Courthouse will be closed through Tuesday, December 27 due to the combination of bad weather in the area and this weekend’s Christmas.
Much of Nebraska remains on a wind child warning through Friday and part of Saturday.
Cold conditions on Sunday and Monday are expected to give way to normal late December highs – in the low 20s – and highs are expected to be in the 30s and 40s for most of next week.