A fast-moving weather system laid down a thin layer of ice beneath light snow overnight, and the consequences were painful for many area residents.
Omaha-area emergency rooms were swamped with people injured on icy sidewalks and steps Monday morning. The roads also were slick: One driver was critically injured when her van left the road and hit a tree in west Omaha. And so many fender benders occurred Monday morning that police suspended taking non-injury accident reports for about three hours.
By midmorning, emergency rooms reported that more than 50 people had sought treatment for injuries from slips and falls. Occasional calls for ambulances still were coming in late into the morning.
Monday's injuries were the most to have occurred in a single morning this winter, said Jodi Hoatson, a spokeswoman for Alegent Creighton Health.
Eppley Airfield reported 1.3 inches of snow by 6 a.m. Freezing rain had started about 4 a.m. and turned to snow, said Cathy Zapotocny of the National Weather Service.
The snow then turned to slush by late morning, and highs in the 50s were expected for the afternoon and Tuesday and Wednesday.
Dr. Nate Brackett, emergency room medical director at Bergan Mercy Medical Center, said Monday's injuries ranged from ankle fractures and broken wrists to head injuries.
“There will definitely be rehab involved,” Brackett said. “A few people will need surgery.”
Omaha public works crews had been treating streets with a brine solution since 6 p.m. Sunday, said Scott McIntyre, who handles street clearing for Omaha.
In the west Omaha crash, a teenager was extricated from a van in a single-vehicle crash near 180th and Blondo Streets. She was taken by helicopter to a local hospital in critical condition.
Another accident bogged down traffic on southbound Interstate 680. A semitrailer slid into a median at I-680 and eastbound Interstate 80. The driver was not seriously hurt.
Emergency rooms receiving patients for slips and falls:
-- 33 people went to Immanuel Medical Center, Creighton University Medical Center, Lakeside Hospital and Bergan Mercy Medical Center.
- 16 people went to Methodist Hospital and Methodist Women's Hospital.
- 2 people went Nebraska Medical Center.
-- 2 people were treated at Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs after a weather-related traffic accident.
Even police were falling.
Officer Michael Pecha, an Omaha police spokesman, said he was dazed for about 10 minutes after stepping out of his truck, slipping onto his tailbone and hitting his head on the truck.
He said he “sat for a long while” before deciding to forgo the emergency room and head into the office.
“I just wasn't thinking about the layer of ice under the snow,” Pecha said.
Even though temperatures will be in the 50s for a couple of days, the wind will make it feel chillier than the temperature would indicate.
The weather service is forecasting a 40 percent chance of a storm Wednesday night into Thursday in the Omaha metro. The storm would arrive as rain Wednesday night and leave as a mix of rain and snow on Thursday.
Tom Kines, meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc., The World-Herald's weather consultant, said the storm's path remains unclear. On Monday, the system had yet to make landfall on the West Coast. It is expected to make landfall Tuesday and cross the Rockies on Wednesday. Its path out of the Rockies will determine how much moisture it picks up from the Gulf of Mexico, he said.
“I suspect somebody gets a significant snowfall out of this,” he said.