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Snow piles up to 13 inches, setting January record in Lincoln
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Snow piles up to 13 inches, setting January record in Lincoln

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The National Weather Service called it "historic" and "the big one."

The Weather Channel sent reporters to Lincoln and Omaha.

In the end, the winter storm that hit Lincoln and most of eastern Nebraska on Monday lived up to its billing.

By 7 p.m., snowfall had already covered the tops of footlong rulers in some locations, with the Lincoln Airport recording 13 inches, an all-time January single-day record.

Closings, cancellations, postponements and openings.

In Lincoln's history, the most snow recorded on any January day was 11.4 inches on Jan. 3, 1971.

Just how rare significant snows are in Lincoln is evident in the all-time snowfall records dating to 1948.

In all those winters, Lincoln had reached 10 inches of snow on a single day just five prior times.

"I love it," said John Baylor, the longtime voice of Nebraska volleyball matches on the radio who was taking his second pass scooping snow on a downtown sidewalk on North 11th Street.

"As long as nobody gets hurt, everyone's smart, everyone stays patient." 

He said he was having fun and getting a good workout. "Gives you kind of a man versus nature feel."

"We don't have enough days where we're reminded … the environment is a beautiful, beautiful place," Baylor said.

The heavy snow essentially shut down the city. Lincoln Public Schools and all the city's colleges and universities closed for the day. The Lincoln City Council canceled its weekly meeting. Many city services also were shut down, including bus service.

StarTran started the day running normally, with some occasional delays. But by 2 p.m., with 10 of its 18 buses stranded and many of them having to be towed, the city announced it would shut down early for the first time since 1974.

“StarTran prides itself on being a dependable transit service through all types of weather, but we also want to make sure our riders and operators remain safe at all times,” Lincoln Transportation and Utilities Director Liz Elliott said.

The buses weren't the only vehicles getting stuck. On side streets and overpass approaches, countless cars found the heavy snow too much to overcome.

The span of Nebraska 2 stretching from the West Bypass to Van Dorn Park was a parking lot at times, travel complicated by a train that kept cars from diverting onto Park Boulevard.

Light to moderate snow started in Lincoln around 2 a.m. and intensified as the day went on. Between 1 and 5 p.m., the weather service estimated snow was falling at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour in Lincoln and surrounding areas. A winter storm warning that had been set to expire at 3 a.m. Tuesday was extended until 9 a.m.

The heavy snow and steady winds of about 15 to 20 mph made travel even more difficult in rural areas.

"Do not travel unless it's absolutely necessary," State Patrol Col. John Bolduc, superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, said during a morning news conference.

Traffic tie-up now cleared between Van Dorn Street and U.S. 77, police say

State Patrol spokesman Cody Thomas said people appeared to heed that warning as traffic volume on the state's roads was much lower than it usually is on a Monday. As of 9 p.m., Thomas said the patrol had responded to 28 crashes and had assisted 313 motorists who were stuck or had other issues.

By 7 p.m. Monday, Lincoln Police had responded to 22 crashes.

The city declared a snow emergency, banned parking on arterial streets and bus routes and also instituted a residential parking ban. There were more than 100 city crews and private contractors plowing both arterial and residential streets throughout the day, but they could not keep up with the snowfall rates.

Heavy snows of Monday's magnitude are rare in Lincoln, especially in January.

Monday's storm had "a good amount of moisture," said Brett Albright, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Omaha, and the track of the storm lined up perfectly to put Lincoln in the bull's-eye for some of the heaviest snow.

New parking ban plan in effect in Lincoln is aiming for more compliance, clearer streets

Other snowfall totals reported by the National Weather Service by Monday evening:

* 12.5 inches, Fairbury.

* 12, Nebraska City.

* 11.5, McCool Junction.

* 11, Garland.

* 10.5, Crete.

* 10.5, York.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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“This is what I would consider to be a historic event as far as snowfall,” said Taylor Nicolaisen, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Valley office. “We typically don’t see this kind of snowfall at this time of year.”

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