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Freezing drizzle causes slips and falls; 1,220 lose power in Omaha

Freezing drizzle causes slips and falls; 1,220 lose power in Omaha

The snow that was expected to muck up Omaha's Friday afternoon commute didn't materialize, but the freezing drizzle that fell instead more than made up for it as ice coated side roads, driveways and sidewalks.

It's possible that the freezing drizzle will still switch over to snow Friday evening, a National Weather Service meteorologist said before 4 p.m., but it looks like little snow will accumulate.

Even Falls City, Nebraska, which was initially expected to get up to 7 inches of snow, was expected to get only about 4 inches, said Katie Gross, a meteorologist based at the weather service's Valley office.

The heavier band of snow moved farther southeast of Falls City, she said.

About 2:05 p.m., a Southwest Airlines plane arriving in Omaha from Las Vegas slid off the end of an icy runway after landing at Eppley Airfield.

"There are no injuries, and airport fire crews are working with Southwest to deplane the passengers and take them to the terminal," Eppley officials said.

The airport was closed for about 2½ hours.

Winds Friday night were expected to gust to 25 to 30 mph. With lows in the single digits, wind chills are expected to drop below zero.

Highs of 15 on Saturday and 20 on Sunday are forecast for Omaha. Monday's high should be in the low 30s. 

UPDATE 9:15 p.m.: The number of OPPD customers without power in Omaha was down to about 500.

UPDATE 8 p.m.: CHI Health emergency rooms saw almost 60 patients for slips and falls Friday in its six metro-area emergency rooms, said Kathy Nivers, a CHI Health spokeswoman.

Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs treated 20 of the 57 patients who had visited those six emergency rooms, Nivers said. The second-highest number, 16, was recorded at Lakeside Hospital.

"I don’t remember this many slips and falls in one day in recent winters," Nivers wrote in an email.

Power outages were affecting about 1,220 OPPD customers in the Omaha area Friday evening.

About 800 of those customers were without power because of a circuit outage, according to Paula Lukowski, an OPPD spokeswoman. The area most affected was bounded by Pacific Street and University Drive and 46th Street and University Drive West.

A vehicle striking a power pole affected another 100 or so residents, Lukowski said. Crews were finished working on the pole by 8 p.m.

UPDATE 2:40 p.m.: The University of Nebraska at Omaha said that classes that were scheduled to start at 3 p.m. and after have been canceled.

UPDATE 2:15 p.m.: The National Weather Service office in Valley now is expecting only about an inch of snow by the time the weather system moves out of the Omaha area. The freezing rain that was falling early Friday afternoon was expected to become a mix of freezing rain and snow before switching over to all snow Friday evening.

Creighton University announced on its Twitter page that it had closed at 2 p.m. because of the weather. Drivers in central Omaha were reporting that it is becoming difficult to keep their windshields clear because of the freezing rain.

Council Bluffs police said on Twitter that road conditions had deteriorated rapidly and noted that several calls had come in about people being injured in falls. "Everything is becoming coated with a thin layer of ice," Bluffs police said. "Please be careful!"

UPDATE, 1:45 p.m.: The Nebraska State Patrol said before 1:30 p.m. that troopers were reporting that main roads in the Omaha metro area are wet but side streets are covered with ice. The patrol recommended that people allow themselves extra time if they needed to be out driving.

UPDATE, 1 p.m.: Light drizzle is falling across the Omaha area, and sidewalks are starting to get slick, Omaha's street maintenance engineer said.

City crews have put down salt on major and secondary routes, Austin Rowser said.

Rowser said he had not heard of any issues with slick streets yet, but "it won't take long before that changes."

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UPDATE, 12:15 p.m.: Freezing drizzle was moving into the Omaha area over the noon hour Friday, with slick sidewalks reported in Valley and iced-over car windshields.

In Fremont around noon Friday, people were reporting that even the highest defrost settings on cars aren't keeping up with freezing drizzle, Cathy Zapotocny, a Valley-based National Weather Service meteorologist.  

Reports of freezing drizzle have come in from Tecumseh, which is about 60 miles southeast of Lincoln; in Blair, which is north of Omaha; and in Cedar County, which is in far northeast Nebraska.

People south of Norfolk are reporting that roads are 100 percent ice-covered, Zapotocny said.

* * *

The Omaha area should see more freezing drizzle and less snow than was expected Friday, a forecaster said.

The updated forecast for the area is calling for 1 to 2 inches of snow by late Friday night, said Cathy Zapotocny, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Valley. But before the snow moves in around 1 p.m., she said, the area likely will see freezing drizzle that could make untreated roads and sidewalks slick.

All the school cancellations in the Omaha area should greatly reduce traffic during rush hour, she said. (For the most up-to-date list of closures and cancellations, click here.)

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Heavier snowfall amounts now are expected to hit Nemaha and Richardson Counties in far southeast Nebraska, she said. The weather service has issued a winter storm area for those counties and is expecting 3-7 inches there, with the heavier snow falling closer to the Nebraska-Missouri border.

Around 10 a.m., Zapotocny said "quite a bit of freezing drizzle" was being reported west of Lincoln. "We're getting reports of semitrailers that were westbound sliding so that they're actually eastbound in the Grand Island area," she said.

Reports of freezing drizzle icing up windshields were coming in from Lincoln, she said. Traffic in Lincoln didn't appear to have been affected yet, she said.

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Bob Glissmann helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow him on Twitter @BobGlissmann. Phone: 402-444-1109.

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Freezing drizzle is expected to fall in the Omaha area Friday before the snow moves in around 1 p.m. 

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