Up to 8.5 inches of snow fell in the Omaha area Sunday as a surprisingly heavy winter storm slammed eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, pushing the city toward near-record seasonal snowfall and causing numerous crashes.
The National Weather Service reported 8.5 inches in Bellevue and 8 inches in Council Bluffs.
Officially, Omaha received 7.6 inches, based on readings at Eppley Airfield. That wasn’t a daily record, but it was enough to make 2020-21 Omaha’s second-snowiest snow season to date, said Taylor Nicolaisen, a meteorologist with the weather service.
So far this season, Omaha has received 47.9 inches based on readings at Eppley, Nicolaisen said. The record at this point in the season is 48.1 inches in 1974-75, he said.
The season-long record is 67.5 inches in 1911-12, he said.
Official snowfall in Omaha (Eppley Airfield) thus far...7.5 inches— NWS Omaha (@NWSOmaha) February 21, 2021
Not a daily record, we got 12.8 on this date in 1945
Law enforcement officials reported a number of crashes across the region. In Omaha, police officers reported that roads Sunday morning “were exceptionally dangerous” and that drivers were finding it hard to stop. As night fell, some roads again became icy.
A 69-year-old Fremont man died and his female passenger was seriously injured Sunday in a collision on a snowy road in Saunders County. Shortly after 4 p.m., the pickup the man was driving crossed the center line of Nebraska Highway 109 and struck a road grader head-on, according to the Saunders County Sheriff’s Office. While it’s not known if weather was a factor, the road was snow-covered at the time, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Far more snow than expected fell, said Corey Mead, a weather service meteorologist.
Totals varied widely. The bull’s-eye for the heaviest snowfall occurred in Iowa, just to the northeast of the metro area. As a result, totals in the Omaha area were deepest on the east side and lesser to the west.
“The reports from west side of the city were closer to 4 inches,” said meteorologist Brett Albright of the weather service.
Lincoln received even less, 1.8 inches.
Across the river in Iowa, 9 inches of snow was reported in Little Sioux and 9.5 inches in Onawa.
Pottawattamie County and Carter Lake declared snow emergencies until 1 p.m. Monday. Vehicles cannot be parked on or along any public county roadway during snow removal operations.
Despite the heavy snow, Omaha fell short of the daily records for snowfall and precipitation.
Omaha’s daily record snow for Feb. 21 was 12.8 inches in 1945. Sunday’s snow contained 0.66 of an inch of water, according to the weather service, shy of the daily precipitation record of 0.73 of an inch.
As late as Saturday, forecasters didn’t expect such a heavy snowfall. The weather service forecast on Friday called for 1 to 2 inches, and that increased to 2 to 4 inches on Saturday.
But big, fluffy flakes fell fast Sunday morning and piled up swiftly. Interstate 80 was snow-covered as far east as Grand Island and Kearney, Albright said.
Nicolaisen said the storm was wetter and more intense than expected.
The snow won’t last but will create a fall hazard. This week’s daytime highs are forecast to be in the upper 30s to mid-40s. Overnight lows will be below freezing, according to the weather service, leading to slick spots in the mornings on sidewalks, driveways and untreated roads.
Roads continue to be slick in Omaha metro area and points north, east, and southeast of the city.— NWS Omaha (@NWSOmaha) February 21, 2021
Give yourself plenty of time to make your destination.
Visit https://t.co/2phed7ItSO (Iowa) or https://t.co/TOg8mWzfwL (Nebraska) for the latest road conditions. #IAroads #NEroads pic.twitter.com/LjGWIDrtqj
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