Sorry, kids. Your school vacation may be over.
The polar express that delivered Omaha its coldest weather in about four years – and local students an extra day away from school – is heading east overnight.
Wind chills will be biting Tuesday morning, but no worse than some school mornings in December, said Rick Chermok, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Around noon Monday, Omaha Public Schools officials said classes would resume Tuesday. But they continue to monitor the situation. The forecast doesn't call for conditions that would match the rough threshold for canceling classes due to cold. OPS uses a sustained wind chill of 20 degrees below zero as a starting point for considering school cancellation.
Chermok estimates that wind chills on Tuesday will be in the 15-below to 20-below range and then improve during the day.
Today's low was 11 degrees below zero, and wind chills generally ranged from about 30 below zero to 35 below, he said. The last time Omaha had temperatures that low was early January 2010, Chermok said.
After below-zero temperatures in the single digits tonight, Omaha should see a high Tuesday of about 20 degrees. By the weekend, highs could be flirting with 40 degrees, Chermok said.
Since Saturday morning, the six metro-area Alegent Creighton Health emergency departments have treated 14 patients for weather-related problems, said spokeswoman Jodi Hoatson. Four people were treated for exposure and allowed to go home. The remainder suffered injuries from slips and falls, she said.
On Monday, the Salvation Army announced that it would open its Kroc Center, 2825 Y St., until 9 p.m., and its North Omaha Center, 2424 Pratt St., until 3 p.m. to people wanting to come in from the cold.
Mike Saklar, executive director of the Siena/Francis Shelter for the homeless said about 544 men and women had sought shelter overnight, a near record number. The shelter was allowing people to stay indoors through the day, too.
This week's cold has proved too much for some diesel-operated trucks and cars with old batteries. Towing companies reported three to four times their normal calls and in some cases had to turn down requests for help.
Neff Towing was kept busy with large, commercial trucks that experienced problems with fuel freezing during their rounds, said Penny Wools, dispatcher. The truck engines started fine, either because the vehicles had been housed indoors or had been on idle, but then couldn't keep going once they were out on the highway, she said.
Robin Loh of Auto 1 Towing said her crews were mostly helping private citizens with cars that wouldn't start because the batteries were too cold.
Wools described business as “very hectic” and Loh said she had been at work more than 24 hours helping with calls.
“Our main concern has been getting people off the roads so they're not freezing,” she said.
The AAA auto club received about 230 calls for assistance, said spokeswoman Rose White. Most were due to batteries.
Union Pacific Railroad said Monday that the extreme cold, drifting snow and gusting winds slowed its main-line and switching operations in the Midwest. The railroad said customers can expect delays as long as 48 hours for traffic moving through Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.