Lincoln gears up for Winter Storm Q
By Ryan Mueksch and Torin Otis, NewsNetNebraska
When the Weather Channel sends meteorologist Jim Cantore to Lincoln, this winter storm means business.
Cantore and his crew arrived in Lincoln Wednesday afternoon to report on the anticipation of Winter Storm Q hitting Nebraska starting Wednesday evening.
Local meteorologists are projecting six to twelve inches of snow in Lincoln, with the possibility of areas of south central Nebraska seeing over a foot of snow. As of Wednesday afternoon, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman said they haven’t yet decided to cancel classes but will keep an eye on the storm.
“As the storm approaches over the next 24 hours, we will continue to have better information regarding the strength and timing of the storm,” Perlman said. “With the information currently available, UNL expects to be open on Thursday.”
Travel conditions are expected to be very poor Thursday afternoon at the peak of the storm, with wind gusts up to 30 mph making visibility very low on the roads. Perlman added if the storm does intensify during the day on Thursday, a decision may be made to close campus, cancel classes, and require only essential personnel report to work.
Scott Opfer, Street and Traffic Operations Manager in Lincoln, realizes the hype surrounding Winter Storm Q but said it will be business as usual for him and the 75-80 city employees working to keep the roads in the best condition possible.
“Our work is costly to the community,” he said. “The longer streets remained closed it’s costly from an economic and a safety standpoint. There’s a lot of pressure to keep streets open and we attack it pretty aggressively.”
Opfer said his crew will cover 19 plowing routes for major streets across Lincoln averaging 60 miles for each route. Each route will have three snow plows and a fourth snow plow with a material spreader to drop salt. The pavement and air is currently cold enough to keep workers from spreading salt on the roads until the initial snowfall drops.
“It will be a really long day of work,” Opfer said. “We’ll try to restructure the hours depending on when the storm hits but most employees will be working twelve hour shifts.”
While city workers will be working to clear the streets, UNL will have approximately 40 employees from Landscape Services clear snow from the campus, according to Christine Jackson, Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance at UNL.
According to UNL’s winter weather policy and procedures, the decision to close the University is made by Perlman on the recommendation of Jackson.
UNL’s policy states that the decision to close the university is “based on the safety or security concerns including inclement weather and could consider local and regional conditions and forecasts, local and regional travel conditions, advisories, campus conditions, and available campus resources.”
Landscape Services has 30 miles of paved sidewalk, 12 miles of streets and 84.5 acres of parking lot on campus to clear.
Because the storm is anticipated to hit Lincoln early Thursday morning, making a decision to cancel class for the whole day could be more difficult than previous storms.
“We’re taking all information available now and under consideration so that we make a decision very quickly, one way or the other,” said Steve Smith, Interim News Director at UNL. “It’s just a matter of having clear and actionable information.”
News about classes being cancelled would go out over UNL Alert, a system that sends emails and text messages.
Despite Lincoln receiving national attention with Cantore in town and having the Nebraska men’s basketball game vs. Iowa pushed back until Saturday, Jackson said there is no added pressure to lean towards cancelling classes.
“There is no perfect decision,” she said. “Some students are happy, some are not.”
So how should UNL students and Lincoln residents to prepare for the storm?
“Get your groceries today, get your cars off the street, and don’t drive,” Opfer said. “Let us get our jobs done and be patient; it will take at least three or four days to drive around in a decent manner.”
Lincoln residents are doing just that.
The Super Saver at 27th and Cornhusker Highway was busy Wednesday morning, and had been increasingly so all week.
“We doubled our staff for today, and I found out this morning that our truck from Kansas City isn’t coming in tonight,” front-end manager Christina Godwin said.
Tampa, Fla. native Jason, who would not give his last name, was shopping for groceries at Super Saver Wednesday morning. He said he knows how to prepare for a big storm.
“I’m preparing now just how I would for a hurricane,” Jason said.