In the midst of one of Omaha's driest winters on record, the season's largest snowfall so far delivered a disappointing amount of water.
But that's no reason to despair, say the nation's leading drought research institute.
Nebraska and Iowa, both struggling with drought and near-drought conditions, generally received less than a half-inch of precipitation from this week's snow.
In Omaha and Lincoln, the 3 to 5 inches of snow that fell brought about one-fifth to one-third of an inch of water, the National Weather Service said.
Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, housed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said the dry winter is not yet something to fret over, for several reasons:
» Winter is the driest time of year, he said, so when less-than-normal moisture falls, the deficits aren't that large.
» The soil is frozen, so any snow that melts now can't be absorbed anyway.
» Last fall, rain and some snow replenished dry soil with moisture before the ground froze. That water is still locked up in the ground, he said, and will be available for growing plants at spring thaw.
And those cracks appearing in yards and parks? They aren't a sign that the ground is parched, he said. The cracks are formed because the soil was wet when it froze. If the soil were dry, he said, it wouldn't be cracking.
Of greater concern would be a lack of rain during the growing season, Fuchs said. For now, there are no discernible clues in climate patterns about whether spring and early summer will be rainy, he said.
Bob Smerbeck, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc., The World-Herald's weather consultant, said climate models somewhat favor the idea that precipitation will pick up in March and April.
|Snow totals and water equivalents|
|Nebraska||Snow total||Water equivalent|
|Omaha||3.4 inches||0.13 inch|
|Lincoln||4.2 inches||0.27 inch|
|Offutt AFB||4.0 inches||0.20 inch|
|Norfolk||1.0 inches||0.04 inch|
|Hubbell||8.0 inches||0.24 inch|
|Grand Island||2.5 inches||0.11 inch|
|North Platte||2.9 inches||0.15 inch|
|Valentine||2.0 inches||0.11 inch|
|Scottsbluff||3.7 inches||0.14 inch|
|Friend||4.7 inches||0.40 inch|
|Glenwood||4.5 inches||0.28 inch|
|Red Oak||3.8 inches||0.16 inch|
TEMPERATURES: Temps around zero early Wednesday in the Omaha area, with stiff north winds of 20 mph and gusts up to 30 mph. Wind chills around 22-below zero.
SNOW DEPTHS: Bellevue, 5.2 inches; Offutt Air Force Base, 4 inches; Eppley Airfield, 3.3 inches; Florence neighborhood, 3 inches; Elkhorn area, 3.7 inches; 120th Street and West Center Road, 4.3 inches; 156th and Blondo Streets, 3.6 inches; Papillion, 2.8 inches; Council Bluffs, 4 inches; Ashland, Neb., 5 inches; Lincoln, 4 inches.
ELSEWHERE: Southeast Nebraska into northwest Missouri received the highest area snowfall totals, with Topeka, Kan., east to the Kansas City area getting around 12 inches.
OMAHA AREA FORECAST: A high temp of 8 degrees Wednesday, with north winds diminishing to 10 to 15 mph by afternoon. A low of 10-below zero tonight. A high temp Thursday of 10 degrees, according to Josh Boustead of the National Weather Service Office in Valley.
OMAHA AREA ROAD CONDITIONS: Main thoroughfares plowed, with a slick layer of packed snow left behind Wednesday. Interstate 80 in good condition. Numerous city trucks and private plows working throughout Omaha, including downtown Wednesday. Austin Rowser, assistant street maintenance engineer, said crews "made good progress" Tuesday night, with major roads in good condition Wednesday and plows heading into residential areas to re-attack certain locations. He said crews also were "cleaning up'' intersections and areas downtown where piles of snow were left behind.
ALERT: Omaha shifted into a snow emergency about midnight and the parking emergency should run through most of Thursday, city officials said. Parking on odd side of streets Wednesday; even side Thursday.
The city said Thursday that the snow emergency was ending as planned at noon. Parking restrictions east of 72nd Street will no longer be in effect.
ACCIDENTS: Omaha police stopped taking property damage accident reports Wednesday morning. Motorists were urged to pull off roadways and exchange information if there were no injuries.
TRASH PICKUP: Deffenbaugh Industries said it would wrap up Tuesday's missed collections before beginning Wednesday pickups. Any unfinished Wednesday collections will be picked up Thursday, and some Thursday collections may be delayed until Friday. Residents with Thursday collections are urged to have their materials at the curb by 6 a.m. If necessary, Deffenbaugh said it would work Saturday to complete all collections and be back on a regular schedule by Monday. Homeowners are urged to keep their trash cans visible and accessible despite snowy conditions. Missed collections can be reported to the Solid Waste Hotline at 402-444-5238 after 7 p.m.
NEBRASKA ROADS: Panhandle, east-central and eastern Nebraska, use extreme caution when traveling. Just east of Panhandle into central part of state, caution urged on roadways.
IOWA ROADS: Most of state, outside of the northern one-third of Iowa, completely covered to partially covered. Southwest Iowa into the central part of state to southeast completely covered early Wednesday.
ELSEWHERE IN NEBRASKA: 8 degrees below zero in North Platte area, with winds of 5 to 10 mph, producing wind chills of 22- to 24-below zero, according to John Springer of the National Weather Service Office in North Platte. Snow totals: North Platte, 2.8 inches; Deuel County, 3; Custer and Logan Counties, 2; Garden County, 3.5; Ogallala, 2.5; Valentine, 1.3; Mullen, 3.5.
ELSEWHERE IN IOWA: Temps of 1-above zero in Atlantic, Audubon, Denison, Creston, Carroll, according to Jim Lee of the National Weather Service Office in Des Moines. North winds of 20 mph gusting to 30 mph in southwest to central part of state, producing wind chills of 21- to 22-below zero. By midnight, Des Moines area had received 4.7 inches of snow.
La Vista: Effective at noon Tuesday. All vehicles must be removed from roads. More.
Lincoln: Effective at 8 a.m. Tuesday. More.
Glenwood, Iowa: Effective at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Gretna, Neb.: Beginning 3 p.m. Tuesday.