Blizzard "Smashes" Omaha in '75

Blizzard "Smashes" Omaha in '75

By Ryan McPike. CREATED Feb 7, 2013

Omaha, NE - The old newsfilm tells the story of a city buried in snow. The newspaper headline describes an epic, legendary storm; maybe the worst blizzard in area history.

In January 1975, Terry Forsberg worked the morning shift at KMTV.  He arrived at work at 4:30 a.m.  It was warm for January, close to 50 degrees.  Once Forsberg started looking at the forecast maps, he knew it would be a long day. "I looked at the charts, I'm going, man, this thing is really going to smash us," he remembered.

The National Weather Service had predicted 2-4 inches of snow.  Forsberg wanted another opinion, "I called Offutt and they said it's going to hit us, we're grounding all pilots by 7:00 a.m."

Terry was right.  Omaha got smashed, 16 inches of snow and 60 mile an hour winds.

"People went to work thinking it was just another snowstorm and then it turned into a nightmare," said Larry Gibilisco.  Larry is a mail carrier.  On that January Friday, Larry was driving a parcel truck.  He had a flat tire and his boss pulled him off the road.  Larry thinks he got lucky, "I had a parcel truck run, not door-to-door.  Those poor souls out there, walking in that mess."  Larry parked his car and walked home.

That's what nearly everone did, parked their cars wherever they got stuck and walked.

The city's snow emergency policy had changed just a few months before the storm.  The mayor could now order a parking ban on snow routes and neighborhood streets.

Decisions about closing school have also changed since 1975.  Almost 19,000 students now ride school busses, and their safety is a big consideration.

"We don't take any risks," said OPS Assistant Superintendent Jerry Bartee.  If there is even a chance of snow, Bartee gets up early in the morning to see if it's safe to put school busses on the road.  By 4:30 a.m., he makes a recommendation to the superintendent, school day or snow day?

"Our busses go up those residential streets, up and down thos residential streets, and trying to control a bus on those slick conditions is a very dicey situation," said Bartee.

The winter of 2013 is almost over, and we've had only about a foot of snow.  The KMTV Weather Alert Team thinks there's 1-2 more winter storms headed this way, before spring starts March 20.