The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

First winter storm of season brings reminders of driver safety


Rob Langrell - Publisher of the Sidney Sun-Telegraph

Most of I-80 through Cheyenne County had been cleared of snow and ice by mid-day Tuesday, but remnants of this week's storm were clearly apparent. Tractor-trailers were left on the side of the interstate – including one on its side – and abandoned after crashes during the storm.

The time has come to bundle up, drive slow and take precautions when driving around the Nebraska roadways.

Amidst a bevy of non-fatal incidents in recent days, Sidney residents are being warned to be cautious on the roads.

"We've had a number of weather-related incidents," said Sidney Police Chief B.J. Wilkinson. "We've had a number of tractors jackknife on the roads. People should just slow down and allow themselves extra time before they leave. Residents should remember just because you can move doesn't mean you can stop. They should also be aware of bare pavement. Anytime you see some there's a possibility it can be covered with ice."

The National Weather Service predicts that Thursday morning will bring more snow to Sidney, while Friday morning should bring mostly sunny skies and a high of 36 degrees.

This week it is imperative for Sidney residents to drive carefully and pay close attention to their surroundings, law enforcement officials say. The bulk of the accidents have happened around the I-80 area.

"The more storms, the more incidents we have," said Cheyenne County Sheriff John Jenson. "It's not abnormal for a storm like we are just experienced to have three or four accidents. They have definitely gone down over the years because of better forecasting and most drivers are better prepared. Even employers are more pro-active."

Both Wilkinson and Jenson feel drivers need to slow down and allow themselves more time to reach their destination at home.

"Most drivers that end up in an accident, is because they drive to fast for the conditions," said Sheriff Jenson. "Drivers need to slow down, give themselves more time to reach work, home or their destination."

Sidney's Public Services Director John Hehnke said the city is prepared to deal with dangerous weather conditions.

"During this storm, the city used 10 pieces of equipment to plow snow. This included plows, loaders and a motor grader," Hehnke said. "The city will continue to pre-plan for each individual winter storm based on the predictions provided to us from the National Weather Service. We will also provide the public with updates on declarations of snow emergencies and road conditions through all local media outlets including the newspaper, radio, city website and our social media pages.

"Declaring a snow emergency requires residents to remove vehicles from the emergency snow routes, which in turn allows our crews to work quicker and safer to remove snow on these streets," he added. "We remind residents that when they remove snow, that they do not place it in the streets as this creates hazards for motorists and inhibits our efforts to clear streets and keep them safe for the traveling public and for emergency responders."

Hehnke goes on to reiterate the safety fact that Wilkinson and Jenson alluded to when focusing on driver safety and time management.

Rob Langrell - Publisher of the Sidney Sun-Telegraph

"Some of the best advice for anyone driving in winter weather conditions is to slow down, give yourself additional time to get to where you are going," Hehnke said. "Remember to slow down earlier coming to a stop, anticipate the changing of a signal light. Proceed slowly from a stop sign or stop light rather than stepping on the gas pedal like normal."

The National Weather Service reports that in the most recent snow storm 6 inches of snow fell in Sidney, 13 inches fell in Scottsbluff, 4.5 inches in Kimball, 6 inches in Alliance, 2 inches in Chadron and 8 inches in Bridgeport.

"If you're traveling out of town make sure to pack a winter survival kit including a flashlight, water, blanket, roadside flare, some ice melt, etc. and always let people know where you are traveling to, along what route and an approximate time you plan to arrive."


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