Stothert: Wind causing traffic signal problems

Posted at 10:59 AM, Feb 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-02 12:44:43-05

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert gave an update on the city’s response the Groundhog Day snowstorm around 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

Question: What are you hearing from your roads crews this morning?

STOTHERT: I'm hearing things are going well. The streets with doubled up on, additional resources, with the extra plows we have reallocated from the city's construction division and the parks department. Those areas that we've identified are getting plowed every 20 to 30 minutes . Some area, major areas, being plowed every 45 minutes to an hour. Things are going really well. Of course the light traffic does help. There's nothing worse in a snowstorm than like the last snowstorm. Those employees are able to get out there and move fast and up and down those majors really, really quickly. The residential areas are being plowed too. They will be working the next 24 hours getting the residential cleared. The snow is real heavy and wet, though, and they are having some problems with the snow balling up with the plow the, but they are still getting it cleared. Biggest problem we're having right now is with the traffic signals because of the wind. We had 22 intersections that the traffic signals were out. We fixed three of those so far. We want to remind people to treat that as a four-way, but it's important to know that once the power is turned back on the public works department has to physically go out there and turn back on and reset them. That may take a little while so, we tell people to be very cautious around those areas that the traffic lights are not working. Things seem to be going very, very well. I have my hotline. They were working since 7 a.m. this morning and calls are very light.

Q: What kind of feedback are you getting on your hotline this morning?

STOTHERT: It's very positive. We have not had many calls of area that is need extra attention or questions. Mostly about the traffic signals being out. People are calling us saying that they see plows, they see multiple plows, and so what's important is, again, we have been using that same plan that we hado ur snow removal plan since about2008, but it's important to know that we can modify it and we will, and we can modify it during an event if things change. We're always looking at way that is we can communicate better, collaborate together and that's what's really important that all of these entities that are working together, fire, police, public works, planning, emergency management. We all have to be working together to make it as smooth as possible, and we are doing that, and we learn a lot with each snowstorm. Hopefully, this one we're delivering a lot better service and that we will continue with the next snow event because we don't know when that will be. Things are going well. We've made a lot of changes internally about communications, and actually our public works department is monitoring today the chatter on the police radios so that ci actually hear if a police officer that's out in traffic has a problem they can hear what's going on before they even call it in. So that is something that we're doing differently this time, but it's working well, and hopefully we will be able to continue that in the future.

Q: Are those modifications [to the snow response plan] going to stick for us?

STOTHERT: We can. Again, every snowstorm is different, and it also makes a big difference when it occurs. There's not a mayor in a country that doesn't dread a snowstorm during rush hour. There's such heavy traffic and the plows can't get through. We will modify our snow plan depending on the event when it happens, what time of day, how much the snow is falling, but we have found that what we're doing now reallocating those extra snow plows off the secondaries, secondaries and residential, and onto the majors are making a big difference. Right now, we have on the majors about 30 percent more than we normally do because we've moved them from other areas. Now, the other areas are getting a little bit slower as far as their plower, but the main thing is we can modify during the event and then we will get it all done. The key is to make sure that people can get out, move around and do so safely. And so we're all working together. The communication has been good today, and things are going very, very well.

Q: What do you want the people of Omaha to know this morning?

STOTHERT: First of all we're glad that everybody -- the businesses and the schools and everybody has taken the side of caution and people are staying home, but we just do want people to know their safety is first and foremost, that's what we're trying to achieve, and every storm is different, but we will modify and we will try to improve one very storm we have. We're listening to people. We're listening to what their concerns are and hopefully from now on we will only get better.