For quite some time there has been much confusion and frustration concerning the city of Omaha’s snow removal plan. It’s time for citizens to know exactly how the whole thing works. Please consider this tutorial your guide to understanding a wrongly vilified policy.
For starters, the night before a potential snowstorm leaders of the Omaha Public Works Dept., affectionately dubbed “the snow-nooshkies” check the weather forecast. Instead of a forecast from the National Weather Service or one of Omaha’s 73 TV meteorologists the Public Works Dept. consults its famed weather-predicting skunk, Stinky.
Hypothetically, say Stinky predicts light freezing mist, AKA “moisture from hell” - followed by snow - then the Omaha Public Works Dept. director immediately leaps into action and picks up his phone and calls the mayor of Omaha, who that time of year would likely be sunning herself in her string bikini and high heels on the Caymans or possibly Turks and Caicos. When she sees the director of the Public Works Dept. is calling she lets the call go to voice mail where it can get lost amidst all the calls from the Douglas County sheriff that she’s also let go to voice mail over the years.
Undaunted, the Public Works Dept. director will call the mayor back from a blocked number so she picks up. He’ll notify her of a looming snow event in the city to which the mayor will, according to official protocol, respond, “Is this an election year?” Now, the answer to her question almost entirely determines the city’s action plan for dealing with the pending snow.
Let’s assume it is a mayoral election year. If so the mayor goes into what city officials label “freak out mode.” For the layman this means she runs around the beach as if her hair were on fire screaming “Get me a flight home - now!”
While the mayor is in transit back to town the Public Works Dept. implements its election year snow removal protocol which entails dumping piles of brine half the height of Mount Everest all over our streets, down our chimneys and sometimes down the backs of our shirts. It’s not uncommon for a couple of motorists to actually suffocate under all the brine. These poor motorists are what’s considered “collateral damage” to city officials.
Sometimes the city will dump a brine-salt-sand mixture on our streets. In the OPS lunch program this is known as “stew.”
Meanwhile, Omaha drivers prepare to venture out onto the increasingly slippery streets. Remember, before leaving home it’s very important you carry the following items inside your vehicle: a snow shovel; jumper cables; seven types of cheese; a shotgun; batteries; a metal detector; an inflatable sex doll; a flare; a Rubik’s Cube; a replica of the Sower atop the state capitol; some Tide pods for the kids to nibble on, and, enough water to last three weeks, which is typically how long it takes to clear our roads (non-election years only).
I should point out that most Omahans are as adept at driving on snow as your average camel is at line dancing.
Perhaps due to their lack of proficiency at driving on slick streets, right after hearing a forecast that calls for significant snow Omahans flock to grocery stores en masse where the average family of four purchases enough food to last the Russian army an entire winter.
When the mayor’s flight from Turks and Caicos lands in Omaha she’s greeted by a police squad car which, with siren blaring, rushes her to Public Works Dept. headquarters. There, while wearing a Husker jersey and waving an American flag, she stands atop the first snow plow to head out to clear the streets in a part of town where voters are expected to determine the outcome of the next election.
OK, now instead let’s assume it’s a non-election year. That means after fielding the call from the Public Works Dept. director the mayor does not rush back home but heads for “nickel mojito night” at the Turks and Caicos resort’s ocean-side bar called the Drunk Turtle where all the bartenders dress like Jimmy Buffet.
A non-election year means that Public Works Dept. employees, who are also all dressed like Jimmy Buffett, take a more leisurely approach to removing the snow and ice. A “more leisurely approach” typically involves waiting for spring to make the snow disappear.
In fact, in non-election years Public Works has been known to spend more time pointing the finger at others for our slick roads than actually plowing the snow. One frequent foil of Public Works would be the National Weather Service. The Public Works Dept. will typically release an official statement saying something like “The poor condition of the streets is not the Department’s fault since the forecast called for only six inches of snow and we got six and a quarter inches.” Whereupon the National Weather Service would release an official statement reading “Up yours.”
When the Omaha Public Works Dept. does get around to clearing the snow it will usually ignore West Dodge Road. West Dodge Road is not a priority for some bizarre reason. After we get an inch of snow trying to ascend West Dodge near 90th Street is basically tantamount to trying to drive a moped up Pikes Peak in reverse.
In recent years Omaha began utilizing a bunch of private snow plow operators which is formally known as the “Hey, they’re private contractors so you can’t blame the city” program.
Not just anybody can get hired to be a snow plow driver in Omaha. You must have prior experience in pushing two tons of snow back onto a driveway the moment the homeowner finishes shoveling. Experience knocking over mailboxes and tearing up grass with your plow is also a plus.
Finally, some Omahans have expressed confusion about the order in which streets are cleared. In election and non-election years alike Omaha streets are cleared not by location or importance but rather according to a complex formula combining the Dewey Decimal System, the Book of Romans, “pi” and a series of algorithms developed by a non-English-speaking Hungarian dentist.
There you have it, the official city of Omaha snow removal plan. It actually makes more sense than you thought, doesn’t it?
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Brad Dickson is a former writer for "The Tonight Show," a humor columnist for the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, a best-selling author of two books and a professional speaker. You can find Brad on Twitter at @brad_dickson.
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