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Energy news from Omaha Public Power District


Brutally cold weather is on the way

December 20, 2022 | Jason Kuiper |
The thermometer lies on the snow in winter showing a negative te

Come Sunday morning, OPPD customers may be asking themselves how badly they wanted an elusive white Christmas.

That’s because forecasters with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Valley are calling for one of the coldest and windiest stretches to hit the area in some time. Travel will be dangerous during the worst of it, they say.

These will be the lowest wind chills since 2021 and 1996, the only two stretches in the last 25 years comparable to the coming wintry weather.  On Thursday and Friday, the high temperature won’t even climb above 0, with Thursday forecast for a high of minus 6, the lowest high temperature since 1996.

And then throw in the snow – the light and fluffy variety that blows around and drifts easily – plus wind gusts that make you want to stay under a blanket for days, and you have a holiday week storm to remember

Or as the NWS head forecaster said: “It’s going to be nasty anywhere it snows.”

‘Coldest sustained weather in years’

It isn’t often that a weather forecaster is certain of anything weather-related. But of miserably cold conditions hitting our area starting Wednesday night, Brian Barjenbruch, Science and Operations officer at NWS, is 100% certain.

“I have no doubt we are going to see some of the coldest sustained weather in years,” Barjenbruch said.

The forecast has remained pretty consistent – wind gusts of up to (and in some spots exceeding) 50 mph, blowing snow and dangerous wind chills are all in the works. However, the amount of snow for the Omaha metro area has trended downward in the last 24 hours, to about 3-4 inches.

The weather will start to turn nasty sometime Wednesday, beginning with freezing drizzle before switching over to snow.

Wind chills plummet

“Anything over an inch will cause dangerous travel conditions with the blowing snow we will see,” Barjenbruch said. “There will be times of zero visibility.”

Temperatures likely won’t climb above zero until Saturday. From Wednesday through Saturday, wind chills should range from the minus 30s to the minus 40s.

Barjenbruch said he did not expect there to be enough freezing drizzle to coat power lines with ice and cause galloping lines. If the drizzle lasts longer than expected or the area sees some extended freezing rain, then the lines could become coated.

But with such high wind gusts, there is always the possibility of power outages.

OPPD crews will be ready. Crews are preparing their trucks, ensuring maintenance checks are completed and the vehicles are gassed up. And they’re readying other equipment, such as cold weather gear, and going through safety checks. OPPD is ensuring adequate staffing levels and will be ready to respond in the event of weather-related power outages.

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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