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Drivers in downtown Omaha urged to plan ahead before clearing snow swathes

OMAHA, Nebraska (Nebraska). If you need to drive around downtown Omaha, you may want to plan your route.

Walls of snow create dividing lanes on one-way streets, making last-minute maneuvering extremely difficult.

City officials say the windrows help speed up traffic during a blizzard.

As it snowed Thursday, a Metro Area Transit bus was stuck near 16th Street and Farnham as snow accumulated on city streets.

It’s Friday, the streets are clear and the buses roll on the pavement.

That’s because the remnants of Thursday’s storm are piled up in the middle of the streets. City officials say the swaths keep traffic moving and clear sidewalks and downtown parking lots of snow.

“When we have areas, especially in the city center, where there are a lot of parking spaces on the side, sidewalks next to the street, there are many lanes, so instead of burdening all these sidewalks and all these parking spaces with all this snow, we bring it in middle where we can go back and pick it up and get it out,” said Austin Roeser of Omaha Public Works.

According to the city, windrows are used from time to time depending on a variety of factors after a heavy snowfall. Some factors include the presence of about four inches or more of snow, humidity, affected streets and nearby sidewalks, and more.

They said the swaths were used this time due to the many lanes on downtown streets and they wanted to avoid getting snow on sidewalks and street parking. They cut to Dodge, Farnam, Harney, 13th, 14th and 15th streets and Maple through Benson.

Some drivers find that windrows provide a safety wall so you don’t have to worry about having too many lanes when you’re driving during a snow storm. But there are other drivers who are not very fond of windrows.

“You call it windrows, I call it a pile of snow in the middle of the road,” said Omaha driver Jerry Rinke. If you want to change lanes, you cannot change lanes to get there. If you want to turn right, there might be another car in the other lane, how are you going to turn right?”

Jerry and other drivers in the city center won’t have to plan their routes for long. The snow walls are melting, and soon the city workers will clean up the windbreaks.

City work crews usually start hauling windrows around midnight when there is less traffic.

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