April 5, 2009 Eastern Nebraska Blizzard

Not caring for the moisture return I ignored the severe aspects of this storm and went for the blizzard portion, getting a room in Neligh NE...west of Norfolk on the image above. Check out the watch/warning graphic. Red is blizzard warning, pink is winter storm warning. Light purple at the bottom is a severe thunder storm watch. Those two smaller red boxes...tornado warnings...one of them inside the winter storm warning and not terribly far from the blizzard warning. I believe both of those tornado warnings produced small short-lived and weak tornadoes.

My plan was get north enough to be into the snow line as the arc of thunder storms moved north into it. Well, they pretty much fizzled as they did, so that part was rather uneventful.

I sat north of Neligh until near dark waiting on the snow to pick up. All I got was moderate wind driven wet snow. I get on the highway to go back into town and that stuff was slick as hell. I slowly come around the corner to come back down into Neligh. Anyone that has taken that highway north of town knows you go up a big hill. Well I was well aware of the hill but figured 25-30 mph would be fine at the top as I started to come down. Wrong. I apply breaks lightly and just slide away. ABS clicking like mad but not doing a damn thing. I thought, oh great, here we go again, winter roads in this Blazer and I'm about to wreck once again. So I'm sliding down hill losing zero speed as I do so. Not a huge deal except the hill ends at the intersection of highway 275. The whole way down it was obvious I was not stopping before the intersection. Felt like I was sliding for a quarter mile at 25 mph. I look left and there is a van coming west. He looked like he was trying to slow down to turn up the hill towards me. I was now in the left lane still sliding and was sure to hit him if he turned. But he goes on past and turns into a parking area. I slide through the intersection right behind him, on down to the Casey's there. At first I thought, well he must have seen I was sliding and just went by. Then later I slide again, but on barely any decline at all. I'm now pretty sure he was just sliding by, as I slid behind him. This was as tacky and sticky as snow gets. Wind was raging but think it would blow it off the trees? Hell no. So it simply stuck to your tread and caked them all up. Anyway, this above is later near the motel. I don't get how any of it was blowing around but it was.

Downtown Neligh. Much more of this snow and 4 wheel drives will start having problems(at least where there was wind). A tuck pulls in next to me and asks what I was doing. Turned out it was a cop. He had to trade his cop car for his personal truck. I told him I was a storm chaser documenting the storm. He actually didn't appear to think it was too crazy lol.

If you want to photograph blowing snow at night I recommend an oversized lens hood...otherwise you'll just get crap on the lens, obviously. I'm using the lens hood from my Canon 100-400L on the Canon 17-40L. Just have to zoom in some as full wide will have circled edges(can just barely see them in the bottom of this one since I didn't get them fully cropped out). Then tripod on the passenger seat, window down. This looked crazy when I drove by, wall of snow blowing around and down the street. Of course I get here and can't get crap for blowing snow. The town sits down below some hills to the north, plus it's generally harder to get good blowing snow in town.

Back at the motel. Not many motel options in this town, but this one wasn't bad at all. A Saturday night, big snow storm, and I was the only person staying here. I thought, well when in the hell would they get people if they can't get any travellers in this storm on a Saturday night. Those branches were being whipped around hard, but really didn't seem to shake loose any of that sticky snow. The power here surged a good 20 or so times. I was pretty impressed it never went out.

Heading home on Sunday.

Very sticky, but very much blowing around.

South of Norfolk now, heading east on highway 91. It was so windy in the open. Car would get up on top of some snow and the wind would push it sideways.

A lot of this highway was fine, but there were a ton of areas of total crap too, thanks to the blowing/drifting snow still. Some would go over hills like it was the middle of summer, only to have 6-12 inches of this crap on the other side send them into the ditch. A front wheel drive car came out of a town as I went by. I then contend with the piled up, rutted snow as I go up the hill. I just about struggle in a 4x4 and have to laugh at the car about to try it behind me. I was shocked when I see them finally crest the hill behind me. They ended up exiting into the next town. I kept thinking, you are stupid to try this in a non-4x4 as it is only going to get worse east of here. Norfolk got 2 inches but an area closer to home got up to 10, in a small stripe going sw-ne.

In Snyder now.

Well the road was closed east of Snyder as plows tried to dig out a big snow drift over the road. So I drive back west of town to shoot stills in an area of blowing snow over highway 91. I get stopped, look east and see a semi coming. I thought, get the telephoto on fast and shoot him entering the blowing snow. There is no blowing snow right where I am and the sun is partially out. I swap lenses quickly, check that IS is on as well as focus set to manual, then check to make sure ISO is up high enough so I could handhold it. I didn't have time to really look to see what the shutter speed would be. I just flipped it to 400 ISO, pointed out the window and shot. 400 ISO was a bit much even with the sun partially blocked(blinking 1/4000th on AV uh oh). Thankfully it didn't over-expose much. The semi hits the snow and starts to jackknife right in front of me. Below is a 6 frame GIF animation of the stills I shot. Notice the 2 cars coming in the last frame. Probably a good thing he regained control. I'm shooting west, so the snow is blowing right to left.

Kind of freaky. That was still stuck to the sign here, as was the whole length of the pole...until I yanked it down. Very sticky snow accumulated horizontally on things, several inches. It then got coated in about 1/4 inch of ice. I actually think it went snow then freezing rain here, with that band lifting north and stalling, so close to the sfc low yet.

Same thing. That snow was so packed you could barely dig your fingers into it. Look at the coating of ice too. Wet snow didn't just freeze that way. It had to have gone snow and then freezing rain here, which is very much backwards.

Just look at those power lines! They too have the few inches of snow stuck to them and then coated in 1/4 inch of ice. This makes for some big time wind sail action. It was lighter than if you had something that big as total ice, so they really blew outward in the wind. Crazy jump roping here. I did shoot some video of this but not sure I will post it. Maybe it'll be on a chase video if I ever make one again. Notice the cop stopping traffic there and the plows up on that hill, and the cars in the ditch. Big old drift up there.

What I should have done was wait for better lighting here.

I finally get through the drifted road. Looked to be about 5 feet deep in spots.

Near Craig now.

West of Tekamah, east of Craig. There's a hill there but still.

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