WATCH: Omaha officials to give weather update

Posted at 12:47 PM, Feb 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-01 19:16:26-05

Omaha city officials gave a briefing on preparations for the Groundhog Day storm.

LIVE STREAM: Click here to watch the 4 p.m. briefing

Organizers say representatives from Omaha Public Works, Fire, Police, Parks and Recreation were present, along with county officials and Omaha Public Power District. 

SEE ALSO: Watches, warnings and advisories issued in advance of Groundhog Day storm


STOTHERT: (In Progress) The city engineer, we have fire chief Bernie Kanger. Police captain representing the southeast precinct and Omaha police department, Parks Director Brook Bench, Douglas County Emergency Manager Paul Johnson. Douglas County Administrator Patrick Bloomingdale, Steve, and LOUISA and the safety director, and also James Thele who is our planning director.
We have developed a coordinated response that will provide frequent updates through Omaha media and through our social media platforms.
The snow emergency will begin at midnight. This means no parking on the designated snow routes and parking restrictions east of 72nd street. So at midnight tonight, cars must be parked on the side of the street with an even address, February 2. Then Wednesday on February 3, the cars have to be moved to the odd side of the street.
We will ticket cars that are not in compliance in the residential areas and we will tow cars that are parked on snow routes.
And this is necessary to do so that the plows can get through. We have allocated additional resources for plowing and salting for major streets, residentsial contractors will plow secondary streets.
Public works will provide more information about that in a few minutes. The city of Omaha community centers and libraries will be closed tomorrow. Defenbaugh suspended collections tomorrow.
At this time the Omaha City Council does plan to meet at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. The mayor's hotline will be open for extended hours beginning tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. and we will stay open until the evening to assist callers. Only city essential designated personnel will report to work tomorrow.
And I am encouraging other businesses to consider that option also, or stagger times for employees to report in the morning and then leave in the evening.
So at this time, I would like to introduce Todd Pfister who is our city engineer and he will describe basically the plan that  we have developed for tomorrow: Todd?
Todd Pfitzer:  Yes, ma'am. I prepared a written plan because I have quite a bit of information. I'm going to go through that. Be patient and we'll have questions at the end here. We have placed all available equipment on city streets and that was beginning yesterday at noon to pretreat for this storm. We have completed that pretreatment operation at this point. We have coordinated reallocated our equipment between three of our divisions to maximize the equipment that's available to plow and spread the major streets. This reallocation will result in approximately 30 percent increase in the amount of equipment devoted to do keeping the major streets clear, with 11 additional large plows from our parks division and the utilization of 18 to 20 smaller plows for what we consider hot spot plowing and that's during our rush hour events. For this storm we anticipate utilizing all this equipment on the major streets while deploying the contractors to aid in the secondary and residential snowplowing. Those residential contractors are on stand-by and they will be activated based on when the snow actually starts and begins to accumulate in those areas.
A reminder, the interstate and expressway is handled by the Nebraska department of roads. That's not something the city participates in. This includes all interstate systems along Kennedy, 80 and 680 west of 120th and the elevated expressways are the responsibility of NDOR. The city of Omaha will not halt the snowplowing effort during this event no matter the conditions and we will provide continuous snowplowing and treatment for the duration of the storm until the snow clearing objectives have been met. In anticipation of high winds and blowing snow, our routes may be modified during the event to facilitate drift clearing and more open areas that require more frequent plowing and treatment. In addition, our traffic signal staff will be reporting early on Wednesday morning anticipating wind-related outages, as well as snow covered signal heads needing to be cleared. We will be plowing to the middle of the street in designated areas near the downtown and midtown areas for this event. It is anticipated that pick up of that snowplow to the middle of the street will begin on early Wednesday. All of our snowplowing and vehicle maintenance staff have been on 24 hour service since the weekend in anticipation of this event and they will remain working around the clock until the clean-up is complete. Thank you.

STOTHERT:  I'd like to introduce Bob Stubbe, the public works director. I'll introduce Bernie Kanger.

KANGER:  Thank you. Good afternoon. Real briefly just to update everybody on what the Omaha Fire Department has been doing in anticipation of this storm, we will implement our severe weather response plan later this evening. What that involves is basically a modified response. We will make sure that we keep our apparatus as close to their territories as possible and that we send only a limited number of apparatus out at a time. We want to be able to make sure that we're able to respond to all possible emergencies. All of our equipment, our fire trucks and our engines and our medic units are equipped with chains so we will chain up all of our units to help them get through the snow. All of our command vehicles are four wheel drive. So we should have the ability to continue our normal response, although it may take us a little bit longer as the snow continues to increase. One thing that we do also ask with our current EMS model allows us to transport patients to whatever hospital they want to go to. Part of our severe weather plan we discontinue that. So any patients that call for medical emergency, we will respond. We will pick those patients up, but they will be transported to the closest hospital. That's to allow -- provides for the safety of the patient and our crews and allows our ambulances to get back in service more quickly. One other item that we would ask, once the storm begins to subside and conditions improve, we would ask that residents go dig out their fire hydrants. This is going to be a pretty significant snowfall and as it piles up, it has the tendencies to bury the fire hydrants. Just for your safety, it certainly helps us if those fire hydrants are dug out when the opportunity presents itselfment thank you.

STOTHERT: Next parks director.

BENCH:  As Todd said, we will – we have 11 of our big single axle trucks that will be assisting public works and we have other trucks assisting, along with other larger equipment that we have park maintenance. So with the libraries and – we take care of the libraries and our community centers, so with that, there will probably be a couple day delay in getting those back open until we can pull off all of our equipment out of public works and back into parks. So trails and a few of our other public facilities will be probably a couple days before we would get those cleared when we're released from public works and the storm is under control.

STOTHERT: And next up, Douglas County Emergency Manager Paul Johnson.

JOHNSON: Thank you. This storm, we started to prepare for this storm last week. As soon as we got notice we were going to get severe weather such as this, we notified unified command. It's priced of our community leaders. They're looking at right now, to establish a cohesive and consistent approach to address the snow storm. From this we've had some meetings where we've discussed the access that will be utilized, approach using throughout the community. We've also touched base with our hospitals, our hospitals, their emergency generation systems are good to go. We also are monitoring this with our other emergency management affiliates in the surrounding counties with the Nebraska emergency center. The center will be open this evening and we will have people down there throughout the night to monitor the situation as it unfolds. Thank you.

STOTHERT: And our last speaker is the Douglas County Administrator Patrick Bloomingdale.

BLOOMINGDALE:  Okay. So the County board will not be meeting tomorrow. That 9:00 a.m. meeting is canceled and all agenda items will roll over to next week. Majority of the county offices and departments will be open. Only essential personnel will report. There are eight elected offices who are autonomous and not under the County board's direct control. The assessor registry will be closed and the treasurer and the County clerk comptroller and the health department,  which is not under the County board's authority will be closed. But as far as I know now, the other elected offices will remain open. County board offices will be open.  I will be there. Couple of other people to answer phones and take any walk-ins that may come in. Thank you.

STOTHERT: Now, we're going to welcome yourquestions. Any of these folks up here with me are involved in this planning this snow event and are planning for it and happy to answer yourquestions.