November 27-29, 2005 North Central Nebraska Blizzard

I have wanted to chase after a good blizzard as I am really a high wind fan. Everytime one was forecasted around here(very rarely but often some with forecasted gusts over 45-50mph) it never became impressive enough to bother. That and often I could not get a vehicle to do it in since mine is a Mustang.

As this one showed up on the models it became pretty clear it would be impressive. One problem was I also wanted to see more tornadoes in November. Well as of Sunday morning(27th) I was still uncertain of which I'd chase, or if I'd chase anything, or even if I'd try and do them both. Well bad cloud cover in all of KS helped me out. I figured there'd be storms in all of eastern KS but really expected the only ones worthwhile to be in extreme se KS and points south. Since I really wanted to take in this Blizzard I also needed to get positioned before it hit. I blew off the severe storms side and committed to the blizzard. The plan the night before was to leave at 8 a.m. for Topeka. Ah well, hind-sight doesn't just show it is fairly likely I'd have found one tornado with that game plan, it also shows that I would have likely not seen this impressive blizzard, a significant one, the likes of which I've never experienced.

I almost got on the road too late. I left around 2pm and thought I'd be in good shape. Well I crossed the front much sooner than I thought I would and it was sharper than I was thinking. I crossed it not far west of West Point. The winds were strong out of the north and cold. By Norfolk I was in a good drizzle/showers with a temp of 33. This is not a good ob for a halfway point heading into darkness. I get to Neligh, get out to get gas and am a bit nervous. It was raining and the temp had to be below 32 now. It was also getting darker out. I was 40 miles or so from my destination and getting more paranoid about how bad that 40 miles might be. Well about 5 miles after leaving Neligh I see frozen fields and trees. 20 more miles and trees are broken all over the place. Each time I'd pass trees on the north side of the road I'd get showered in pieces of ice and tree branch chunks. I'm doing 60mph behind this car because I figured any time now this road would become undriveable. Areas on the road looked to be turning to ice.

This is the powerpole to my motel in O'Neill when I got there. It was swaying all over and completely frozen. The parking lots were sheets of ice, so I know the road I was just on was likely close as well.

Again, I just got here. Thank god I didn't leave any later.

It is now around midnight and it is now snow, but very light snow. Remember this van.

Bye bye cable tv. Ice and wind must have already taken care of the power there.

I love wifi in motels, well most times. Something was always screwy with the internet provider. My connection was usually great but the browsing was a joke. I think this IR image is from early morning. I'm just east of northcentral NE.

The area was in a blizzard warning before I left at 2pm Sunday. It stays in a blizzard warning until midnight Monday. That is pretty impresseive. This forecast of gusts to 70mph was pretty close. Measured gusts in Valentine and another area near here were 74 mph. Most places just east of there(area I was in) had a ton of ice on things and weren't reporting winds. Those that were were certainly skewed a bit.

This was until midnight in my area and the 8-14 inches was right on. I think O'Neill reports 9 inches when it is done. Somewhere just west of here were reporting around 14 inches. 10-14 inches and winds to 75mph equal trouble. Also adding to the severity of this was the ice on everything first. Then after the rain and icing there was a lull allowing it to get nice and frozen. So all the snow as able to just blow around on this ice.

Ok, back to the chase itself. This is early morning and things are really just getting going. This is a heck of a change from 2 a.m. when I went to sleep(for 4 whole hours). That is the van pictured above. The Blazer I'm driving is on the other side. I move it right now. This person in the van could have backed out now and made things a bit easier but for whatever reason they never do.

East side of the motel. Most snow is just blowing on by here. I move the Blazer over here and do most of my "chasing" from there.

Some stills around the motel.

Stills don't do much for a blizzard.

I tried going up town but there was a foot of snow on the main drag. I'd go to turn around on a side street and they were of course worse. There was hardly a soul out right now. Not caring to get stuck, even with a 4 wheel drive, I went back to the motel pretty quickly. Some powerline down in someone's yard here.

I'm now parked over hear for good(east side) and really wishing that door was clear so I could use it.

It is now extremely windy. You can see the wind flattening my jacket to my back. This was around noon and is when the 74 mph gusts are being recorded. I get a bright idea that I should play 'hurricane chaser' and stand in the wind on cam. Well I'm parked on a sheet of ice(the parking lot) and right when I go to walk out and stand infront of the cam the wind blows me southeast. I don't step, it just quickly moves me while standing up on the ice.

I'm now leaning into the wind. The only way I could figure to do this was leave the drivers side door open and put the cam on the tripod and let it lean against the open door. The blowing snow quickly covers the lens with this approach. It worked well enough though.

Here is an F-150 stuck on the road. That's not even a half a block away from me. Do they sell F-150s that are only 2 wheel drive? I imagine they do but not sure. I figured it was a 4 wheel drive and he still got stuck in the drift. I go over by this drift later and I don't think a 4 wheel drive vehicle would get stuck in it so it probably was just a 2 wheel drive.

This is the same truck from the same spot. That line across the top(only thing showing) is his open door and the top of the truck(I just went over the video again to make sure this grab was this). That is what a white out is. This is in town too. If you were on an e-w highway during this you would be having some serious problems.

Powerlines jump roping in the wind. The top of the pole gets to twisting back and forth.

Digital still between gusts. Ok, maybe that snow is up to the bottom of the truck. It did not take him all that long to get out.

Looking back nw from the same spot on the east side of the motel.

Again, stills don't really tell the tale.

I kept trying to get a cool shot of this but would have to wait on the better gusts. I wasn't wearing gloves so that I could shoot stills and video quicker. I was not lasting long at each attempt because of this.

The distance I walked from the blazer wasn't very far. Each time I'd go back to the truck I'd have to fight sliding in the wind while getting the door open without it flying out of my hands. There was a little ditch of wet slush I'd jump over to get here. I cleared it everytime but the first one where I just stepped into it, learning it was slush underneath.

Good luck seeing the corner.

Southeast side of Super 8. The van is not doing so well.

Maybe they missed the whole blizzard warning thing. Notice the other car towards the left side, much more snow and it'd be invisible.

I remembered seeing a "microwave" in my room, so while at the gas station I grabbed a sandwhich. I put it in there and went to close the door and noticed the door was a bit heavy. It's a darn safe! I don't want a safe, I want to nuke my sandwhich.

After eating my cold sandwhich I head back out for more. Earlier I was using the back window to shoot out of since the front was frozen. Well while pushing the buttons I must have made the passenger side one go down a ways. The front and back are now covered in a layer of snow.

Oh and before this while shooting I noticed a glove flying down the parking lot and laughed at it. Then I thought I had better check my pockets. It was my glove! "Haha" now. My other was nowhere to be found either. So my fun was now starting to turn on me. Lose gloves, leave window down and try to nuke a sandwhich in a safe. This "fun" has only just begun :(. I have to remind myself I drove to this location to be a part of it too. We chasers must be stupid folks, to go out of our way to increase the odds of having problems. I would not have traded this trip of anything, it was honestly that much fun. There is something about experiencing stormy weather, any stormy weather.

The mistake. On the bright side it was only down that far.

The calm side of the motel.

Now for the next problem. While getting back into the vehicle I lose the door in the wind and this bends the hinge plates out away from the frame. I lifted up and down on the door and tried to push sideways on it and nothing. It was always this dead stop, like the latch was hitting something. Well the latch area on the door that goes over the post on the frame wasn't lined up right. It was trying to go over the very end of the post which it can't because it attaches to the frame at the end. Hmmmmm, not good. Not wanting to mess with it in a raging blizzard I try to rig it to at least stay closed overnight.

I looked around the truck for something and all that I could find was my extra sony charger. Tying frozen electrical cord is not a blast by any stretch. I won't say how long I was at it. First I tied it with the steering wheel up so that it was not tight..@$#@$@. So I got to undo it and make sure the wheel was down. Finally got it all redone and lifted the wheel up and was good to go.

This kept most of the snow out overnight.

My new shooting location as the vehicle was no longer a great option.

It is now late afternoon Monday the 28th. This pole was kind of funny how much it was twisting and shaking in the wind.

Cool sculpted drifts reaching up towards the roof in an area on the west side of the motel. These are now basically ramps for the snow to go up onto the roof and on over to the vehicles still parked by the building. The sign on the door is kind of funny. It says, "checking out?, we need your keys." Well there was certainly no checking out of that door.

The power is out now, but only to one half of the motel, thankfully not my half....yet.

Bye bye cars. If you left your car there all day you deserve this. I drove around town the next day and many driveways were just like this. I should have taken more images of them but didn't as people were out in them.

Now late evening on Monday, night 2 in the motel. It was still a wind machine but the snow fall was letting up, though it was hard to really tell much of a difference. I'm not sure but they may have extended the blizzard warning overnight instead of letting it expire at midnight. Either way that is one long blizzard warning.

I walked over to the gas station, not realizing they didn't have power. They were still nice enough to sell food, via a small calculator.

Ok, when the one half went out my room was fine, except I noticed that my heater was not running and must have been fed by the same power as that half of the motel. I heard a boom earlier in the evening before that half went out. Anyway, power quickly went out and came right back on numerous times from Sunday night through Monday evening. All that time I was amazed that I wasn't losing it for good. Well I was sitting here chatting online when it went black and stayed black. I was like, darn it I just lost that battle. Then they come on, but really dim. Then they start surging up and down. It was quite spooky.

So, I had already lost the power to the heater and now whatever feeds this is screwed up. BUT, lol, I am still able to chat. I was laughing like, you can't kill my ability to chat and be online! Then they'd go black and stay there for a bit only to light back up some. I try the switch in the bathroom, looking for a new source of power for the laptop. Well hell those lights are perfectly fine. So I power the laptop in the bathroom.

Freaky.

Logging back into chat only to quickly get disconnected. Right about this time everything goes black but my laptop, which is of course now running on the battery.

Nightshot of the lack of light. I stumble over my chair while filming the darkness. All you can do now is listen to the erie wind howling through the screen.

Life without all our entertainment and information items that run on electricity sure would be tough. I sat there thinking about it as that was all I could do. Then I thought, hey, I bet the radio in here runs on battery power. Well it does when there is one in it! What I would have given for a 9 volt battery right then.

Here is an interesting thing. I've never really thought about it. It shows why not to count on a cell phone when traveling in bad weather. If you were stuck out on a highway in this right now you'd be screwed as you certainly wouldn't be calling anyone to tell them.

I was really tired and finally give up trying to find something to do. I fall asleep only to wake up about an hour later to lights and a radio. I was shocked. I think what probably happened was the power company probably shut the stuff off to fix the problems. They could really only work in town at this point anyway.

Tuesday morning, November 29. Snow is done and the wind is a lot better. The problem was the large number of roads remaining closed. Most of I-80 in NE was even closed.

So I guess this is what happens with 9 inches of snow but 75 mph winds.

Before worrying too much about my road problems I had to figure out the door problem I still had. I did not think I'd be able to fix it. What is harder than tying semi-frozen power cords? Un-tying frozen power cords. I pulled those suckers tight too. It was a blast getting that mess undone.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I fixed it!

Right before I fix it I fell on my butt. Not sure if I forgot it was icy or what but I stepped onto the 'pavement' and fell harder than I have ever fallen before. I'm pretty sure my left elbow touched the ground first. I got right up though, hoping no one saw that. I look around and sure enough a trucker walking to his truck was looking at me. I thought for sure this was a sign of things to come when going to fixt the door.

If you are cheap and stubborn like me you'll at least try in vain to do something that you'd otherwise have to pay someone to do. Knowing the problem is half the battle. I must thank Caleb in chat for the brain storming and answer. I knew it was the latch area but couldn't tell if the latch thing was broken and malfunctioning or what. Talking about it in chat we thought maybe the post wasn't lining up exactly right even though it looked to go right in the notch. So thinking about it that night I really thought that was the problem. That plate bent away from the frame enough to make the end of the post 1/4 inch off. When I looked at it from another angle it was clear the latch/notch was hitting on the very tip of the post. I tried lifting up and pulling down on the door incase it was just off a bit that way but it wasn't. How to flatten that plate back was the problem. Where it is located there is no using a hammer without taking the door off. I looked for something and found these channel locks. I tried putting them in the hinge bracket and pulling around and it seemed pointless. Then I simply stuck it in there and pulled the door closed. You can see here how this would work. With some good pulling it flattened it back down like a charm! Things never work out like that for me.

I guess here is my one regret of the trip. I wanted a lot of pictures of big drifts but the roads were all a lot worse than I had expected. My motel room was still without cable and internet. I sat in there after fixing the door and figured I didn't want to be there another night, especially with not much to do. I didn't know how bad the roads were but couldn't stay in the room past check out time to wait and find out. So I packed everything up and left. I drove up town again and was in the way too much, as every street was a mess. I had a fun enough time experiencing the storm and documenting it the best I could so I said to hell with sticking around any longer. I figured 20/275 to Norfolk wasn't that bad as people were making it to O'Neill from there now. Here is mainstreet in O'neill. The pile in the middle is taller than the Blazer.

Area between Neligh and O'Neill.

Most of this tree damage was this way as I came up here.

This was a really impressive storm. Severe icing followed by a severe blizzard. Icing started mid-day on Sunday and the blizzard side started to wind down Tuesday morning(basically a 48 hour storm). Tornadoes occured in several states on Sunday. Severe winds in areas recieving no fashion of precip. I think somewhere in west TX had an 89mph wind gust with the passage of the front. I-70 in western KS and eastern CO was shut down for quite a while. I-80 through most of NE was shut down. I-90 through most of SD was shut down. I-29 through most of SD was shut down. Normally missing out on chasing tornadoes would bug the hell out of me when I decided not to chase. I am very glad I chased the blizzard as it was a long duration, very interesting experience unlike I've ever had.

2 wind turbines at Ainsworth recorded 114 mph gusts 200 feet off the ground!

The last image is an icy field west of Norfolk somewhere.

I'd like to thank my parents for allowing me to borrow and abuse their Blazer like I did. I am sure I'll ask again.

I think the weather/snow is following me around now. Since the November 12 IA tornadoes I've seen it snow here twice, saw this blizzard in nc NE, and a day after being back home it is snowing hard out right now. I guess I'll post those next/tomorrow. Snow is only cool when it is early in the season and/or extreme. I will be very very sick of this soon now.