NDOT to review road closure protocols
Closing the interstate during extreme winter weather conditions is never an easy decision, but it is a risk the Nebraska Department of Transportation is willing to take to reduce fatalities on the state highways.
NDOT officials say there were no fatalities reported and the number of crashes were minimal, if non-existent, during the last two bomb cyclones.
Nebraska Department of Transportation District Six Operations Maintenance Manager Roger Klasna says the agency has gotten better at predicting when visibility and the mobility significantly decreases based on the intensity of the storm and charts from their forecasting service.
Klasna says because Colorado and Wyoming were also impacted, Ogallala became the focal point to prevent overwhelming the community.
"In the panhandle we've had to go rescue people and emergency responders have had to go out and get cars and we've also had to go out with the patrol and get people out of rest areas who are stranded basically in those facilities or who are alongside of the road," said Klasna. "And then you throw in the factor of the person who is stranded due to a medical condition and they may not have their medicine and all of those things that take place."
Whether earlier road closures will be the new norm, Klasna isn't sure.
"We're kind of in a decision point right now on reviewing what happened here, reviewing how well it worked, pros and cons," he said. "Not everybody is happy because they couldn't get to their destination, who thought they could've got to their destination? So we got to weigh all of these out."
Klasna says he is grateful for the open dialogue that's been created between DOT's in Wyoming and Colorado during the April blizzard.
"You don't want to make the decision for the traveler to get off the road, but when they don't look out for their safety, we have to look out for their safety" Klasna said. "The patrol and us understand that there are consequences by driving past your abilities and that creates a lot of extra work for a lot of people. We want to get the road open and have the road open and the decision to close, again, is not an easy decision to make."