Welcome to Snow-maha, Ne-Brrrrr-aska! For those of you who've never had the honor of experiencing the full wrath of an Omaha Nebraska blizzard consider yourself blessed indeed! Talk about a White Christmas!
Thursday, December 24th, we were leaving a Christmas Eve party at my brother-in-law's home. We drove home in what was for all intents and purposes was a blizzard. Visibility was down to maybe fifteen feet with wind gusts of between twenty and twenty-five miles per hour. With an air temperature in the single digits it was no doubt that winter had finally arrived.
The next day (Christmas) I awoke to the usual Christmas fanfare and a harsh reality brought about by the harsh weather: Ten inches of snow was sitting in my driveway in all of its pristine wonder. Not even two weeks had passed since the last winter blast. That one had dropped eight inches of winter powder in the driveway and I had managed to pile snow up to three feet deep on either side of my driveway. I was shaking my head in disbelief! Where, I wondered, am I supposed to put another ten inches of snow! I decided that I would throw (that is to say shovel) most of the snow to the far side of the driveway because the the landscaping and bushes on the near side made the snow pile a ridiculous eleven feet high. I worked in three shifts ( I was in no hurry. I couldn't exactly leave my neighborhood anyway.) Three hours later I had finished, but alas it was still snowing!
The next day, I awoke to discover that there was at least an additional four inches of snow in the driveway and I had to go to work. There really wasn't enough time to dig my way out so I hopped into my wife's SUV and attempted to back out the garage. I got hung up a few times in a pile of snow at the edge of the driveway but I eventually got out onto the street. I put the car into its lowest gear and fishtailed my way down the street. I didn't bother stopping at the stop sign on the corner (had I stopped I'm certain that I would've gotten stuck) and finally made my way out to a street that had been plowed.
This winter in Omaha is sure to be remembered for generations to come. Fortunately the schools were closed for Christmas break. The storm a couple of weeks ago had closed school for three days. Omaha Public Schools has so many "snow days" built into its academic year and if they go over the limit the academic year will be extended.
January 2nd, 2010. Happy New Year! Omaha Nebraska has had about one inch of new snow since the Blizzard(s) of 2009. My brother-in-law manages three branches of a national bank chain in Council Bluffs, IA (across the river from Omaha). He informed me that it cost $1100 per parking lot to remove all of the snow. Many businesses decided not to open or to close early because of all of the snow. I had to return a few DVDs to the local video store and when I got there there was a sign on the door which said "Closed due to weather." Keep in mind that this was a business that is usually open 365 days of the year. McDonald's is closed on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day but the video store is open every day.
Many stores and other businesses also decided to close that day. Many churches and outreach programs (Meals on Wheels for example) canceled services, group meetings or deliveries.
Prior to the blizzard many stores were jammed with patrons buying essentials and non-essentials in case they were snowed in. This helped to offset any losses that occurred due to low traffic during the storm.
In Omaha, the trash pickup schedule fell behind a day because the trucks couldn't get through the streets. This meant that the city had to pay overtime snowplow drivers, sanitation workers and very likely to first responders who were dispatched to emergencies.
A city like Omaha is used to bad winters. If this same storm had happened further south the economic impact would have been far worse. There are just some things that people don't think about until they actually happen. It is clear that the economic impact of a severe snow storm can be felt in more ways than just clearing the streets.