A patch of relatively warm January weather was interrupted on Monday when Beatrice caught the southern tail of a storm that left much of Nebraska covered in a few feet of snow.
While Beatrice was spared a lot of the heavy snow that blanketed areas farther north and west, the city received enough snow that area schools were closed on Monday and for the first two hours of Tuesday.
A light dusting started to fall on Beatrice early Monday morning, but the temperature was warm enough that it didn’t start to stick until just before noon. The snow storm really got going just as commuters made their way down Highway 77 during rush hour.
Starting at 7 a.m. on Monday, the Beatrice Street Department was already beginning their blizzard preparations, as crews sent out trucks to de-ice the streets before snow could start piling up.
For Street Superintendent Jason Moore, a storm like the one on Monday is a challenge that requires not just keeping the roads free from slippery ice patches and drifting snow, but also making sure that every truck and worker is in the right place at just the right time.
The eight-member street crew worked from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Monday, laying down a salt layer ahead of the snow to create a slushy salt brine on the road, Moore said. Then plows began scraping away the snow after it started to accumulate.
At 5 p.m., a second crew of five temporary workers came in to plow until 11 p.m. before the street crew came back at midnight.
“Last night, we were able to scrape everything down as thin as possible,” Moore said. “Then, overnight, the guys came out and treated everything one more time with a light coat, and by 5:30 this morning, most of the streets were cleared.”
With the streets ready for the morning commute, the street crew still had the task of cleaning up after themselves, as they opened up storm drains, washed the trucks and unloaded unused salt. Moore said the street crew used about 80 tons of salt for Monday’s storm.
While there wasn’t a huge amount of traffic on the road during the storm, Moore said, he still recommends staying off the road when the weather is bad, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
“Honestly, for a plow operator, the less traffic that's on the road, the better,” he said. “We get snow on our mirrors, you've got big blind spots, and when you're plowing snow, the last thing you want to do is have traffic stacked up behind you.”
After the first shift went home, Moore said he got behind the wheel of a plow Monday night. Downtown was nearly free of parked cars, which helped crews cleaning up after the storm, he said.
With forecasts pointing to sunshine and temperatures reaching up into the mid 50s, Moore said there’s a warming trend coming as the January thaw begins.
“It hasn't been a hard winter, but it's been a cold winter,” Moore said. “I think everybody's ready for it to start tapering down. Hopefully, we'll get lucky and get a couple of weeks of nice warm weather.”