Spring snowstorm ‘nothing unusual’ despite I-80 closures in Nebraska

A spring snowfall still covered Lincoln Monday morning. Most of it had melted by mid-day.

Story and photos by Katie Nelson, NewsNetNebraskaA spring snowfall still covered Lincoln Monday morning. Most of it had melted by mid-day.

Husker fans sported T-shirts and shorts at the Spring Game on Saturday afternoon, but by Sunday evening, they were scraping snow off their windshields.

Brad Anderson, the morning and noon meteorologist for KOLN-KGINTV, said the storm came out of Rocky Mountains, changing from rain to snow as it moved from Western to Eastern Nebraska. He added that winds in the Lincoln area reached more than 55 mph Sunday night into Monday morning.

“You could basically say it was kind of a powerful spring storm system,” Anderson said.

Strange, but not unusual

Although the storm seems unusual, Ken Dewey, professor of applied climate science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said it is actually a regular occurrence in Nebraska.

“The furthest we have to look back for April snowfall is last year,” he said. “I think it’s important to see that the data show us that it’s not all that unusual.”

Dewey said in the past 115 years, Nebraska has had measureable snow 54 times. He said the weather phenomenon happens about 47 percent of the time in Eastern Nebraska, and jumps to 62 percent in Western Nebraska.

“The concept here is I think everybody enjoyed the near 90-degree weather,” Dewey said. “They were just surprised to see it snow again.”

Dewey added that not only is snow typical in April in Nebraska, but it’s not a specific sign of climate change.

Although the rapid change in weather isn’t new to Nebraska, there were still problems on Lincoln roads and I-80.

1.14 in. of snow covered Lincoln Sunday night.

1.14 in. of snow covered Lincoln Sunday night.

Road conditions

Jason Stille, police captain with the Lincoln Police Department, said 17 accidents were reported between midnight and 10 a.m. Monday, up from the five accidents reported during the same time early Sunday morning and the four accidents reported Saturday morning.

However, Stille said he couldn’t confirm whether the accidents could be attributed to the weather.

“I would guess 17 is an increase over a normal operating day,” he said.

State road conditions

A section of I-80 between Kearney and Overton was closed due to several jack-knife semis, according to Deb Collins, a spokesperson for the Nebraska State Patrol. The Patrol also responded to several “slide-offs,” where vehicles slid off the road or into the median. However, no injuries resulted from the accidents the State Patrol responded to.

Christian Morgan, a UNL student, decided to stay an extra night in Grand Island because of the storm.

“I drove early this morning at 5 (a.m.),” he said. “I was planning on coming back last night, but last year I kind of made a dumb decision and I drove in weather like that, and I got in an accident. So this year I decided to wait.”

He said I-80 was clear today, but he saw at least one tipped over semi and three or four cars off the road.”

As the spring weather continues its rollercoaster pattern throughout April, officials say the best thing to do is to check Nebraska’s 511, which provides 24-hour weather information. The service is provided online at 511.nebraska.gov or by phone.

“It’s seasonal driving, so whatever the weather is doing, the roads are doing,” said Mary Jo Oie, a spokesperson for the Nebraska Department of Roads.

Needed precipitation

Despite the cold temperatures and bad road conditions, Anderson said something good came out of the snowstorm: precipitation.

Lincoln received about 1.14 in. of moisture last night. Lincoln has been a little dry, and Anderson said the precipitation was needed.

“What happens is April snowfalls are quickly forgotten, because the weather warms up and they go away,” Dewey said. “It’s a perception that I see among a lot of people is that it’s so unusual … when really I think they’re just responding to ‘I just don’t want to see it.’”

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