Roads across the Panhandle turned treacherous as the snow storm hit Monday night and throughout Tuesday.
Every major road in the entire Panhandle was closed to emergency vehicles by Tuesday morning, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation. Conditions have contributed to a number of motor vehicle accidents.
Thankfully, there have been few calls for motor vehicle crashes due to winter weather, law enforcement agencies say, likely because the public took warnings of dangerous road conditions seriously.
“We’ve only had two crashes so far this morning,” Gering Police Captain Jason Rogers said Tuesday afternoon. “These were not injury incidents.”
Nebraska Patrol Lt. Art Frerichs said as of press time, only five minor collisions had been reported, with one minor injury and no injuries. Most of the patrol’s weather-related calls are from motorists who slipped on ice or got stuck on closed roads, he said.
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“We’ve had 10 to 12 landslides, and we’ve had some vehicles get stuck on the interstate because of some of the closures that we’re relocating,” Frerichs said.
Frerichs urged the public to take notices of road closures seriously.
“We advise people to stay off the road,” he said. “Do not go around roadblocks that close roads. If you are driving along a closed road, we may not be able to find you, depending on the weather and what is happening.”
Rogers echoed the suggestion.
“Stay home as much as possible unless it’s an emergency,” he said. “The situation has deteriorated so rapidly that it has become very dangerous to drive.”
Rogers explains what precautions to take if an emergency arises and someone is forced to travel by car.
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“Be extra careful, give yourself extra time, and make sure you have supplies with you,” he said. “Blankets, flashlights, water and non-perishable food. But really, we recommend that everyone stay at home as much as possible.”
Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman provided additional advice on what to do if members of the public are trapped in their vehicles.
“If you get caught there, you have a way of finding shelter, and finding shelter,” he said. “You’re usually better off staying in the car. Start the car, open the windows, and check your exhaust every now and then.”
The sheriff said that snow accumulation on the car’s exhaust pipe could allow carbon monoxide to enter the vehicle. He also said stranded motorists could use the melted snow for drinking water, but reiterated that the best way to avoid the dangerous situation was to stay at home.
Road conditions are constantly changing due to snow, ice and wind, and there is no estimate yet for when closed roads will reopen.
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