KEARNEY — Wherever the wind blew, that’s where the snow drifted high and wide today, said the two men in charge of opening roads and streets in the Buffalo County and Kearney area.
“Things aren’t going well at all,” Buffalo County Highway Superintended John Maul said at 7 a.m. today. “A lot of places are going to have to be opened with the payloaders because the drifts are so high.”
Winds clocked at 35-45 mph produced sizable drifts with the 8 to 11 inches of snow that fell in the Kearney area.
Roger Petersen, street maintenance supervisor for the city of Kearney, said his crews were fighting the same conditions, and that some city streets — most of them stretches where wind blew unimpeded — were drifting closed almost as quickly as they could be plowed open.
“It’s a losing battle today. We can’t keep roads open. We’re digging people out. You can’t see very far,” Petersen said.
Maul’s crews were fighting to open Buffalo County’s 1,500 miles of roads, but it was impossible because stiff northerly winds blew snow across roads. Stretches that had been plowed open were quickly being closed again, Maul said.
Snowfall totals across the area were from 8 to 11 inches.
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Compounding the county highway department’s struggles were equipment breakdowns, low visibility and the need for additional motor grader drivers. In addition, several maintainers and trucks were stuck this morning, Maul said.
Mechanics were busy attempting to get several of the county’s 23 motor graders out of the repair shop and back into service.
Maul said in spite of the difficult conditions, all of his employees were safe.
Both Maul and Petersen urged motorists not to drive on the county roads and city streets until storm conditions ease. Vehicles that get stalled or get stuck are slowing the snow removal process, they said.
“It’s been crazy. This is a big deal with the wind,” Maul said. “Drifts build up around vehicles that are stuck out there and we can’t get around them. I would advise everyone to just stay home.”
Strong winds were expected to lessen around 4 p.m. today.
Numerous vehicles were seen on the side of the road or in ditches on state highways Sunday and today, and Interstate 80 remained closed early this morning to eastbound and westbound travel from Grand Island to Lexington.
Petersen said that until the wind dies down, he didn’t expect to see plowing progress on open stretches in the city limits.
“We’re fighting a lot of places to keep them open,” Petersen said. “But I can’t imagine what the county is doing today.”