Sunny skies belied by subzero wind chills greeted North Platte residents Wednesday morning after a massive pre-Thanksgiving storm left behind the season’s first significant snowfall.
Though occasionally heavy snowfall persisted all day and into the evening on Tuesday, snow-covered Interstate 80 remained open across west central Nebraska.
The city of North Platte lifted its “snow emergency” declaration at 6 p.m. Tuesday, 12 hours after it went into effect.
An even 7 inches of snow was recorded Tuesday at the National Weather Service’s Lee Bird Field office, the most for Nov. 26 since 7.8 inches fell exactly a century earlier in 1919.
The storm, however, fell short of lifting North Platte’s total 2019 precipitation to No. 7 all-time since weather records were first kept in 1874.
The North Platte Regional Airport has recorded 27.84 inches since Jan. 1, giving the city its wettest year since the 29.61 inches that fell in 1965.
The No. 7 spot currently belongs to 1906, when North Platte recorded 27.99 inches. The 33.44 inches recorded in 1951 remains the all-time record.
The storm began dropping snow in North Platte as expected just before sunrise Tuesday, after leaving Colorado and southern Wyoming ski resorts pre-holiday gifts of 18 to 30 inches of snow in 24 hours.
Nebraska Department of Transportation officials closed Interstate 76 early Tuesday where the Denver-bound freeway meets I-80 west of Big Springs.
A handful of other highways between I-80 and the Colorado line — U.S. Highways 138 and 385 and Nebraska Highway 19 — also remained closed much of Tuesday.
Farther east, I-80 was closed for several hours between York and Kearney as the storm moved in that direction.
Additional snow, freezing rain and sleet are expected across the state throughout Thursday’s holiday, the weather service said.
Above-freezing temperatures were expected to return Friday, however, just in time for the football season’s last statewide migration to and from Lincoln for the Nebraska-Iowa game.
An inch or less of fresh snow is expected in the North Platte area Thursday, with southeast winds gusting up to 30 mph and a high near 33.
Freezing rain is possible through 9 a.m. Friday, the weather service said, with an overnight low in the mid-20s.
Rain is expected to continue throughout Friday, but highs in the mid-40s will improve driving conditions. North Platte has a 40% chance of snow Saturday, with a high near 38.