Lincoln could see more snow, cold this week; officials report ‘unprecedented’ frostbite injuries

Winter Storm, 1.13

Snow drifts cover a walking path near O Street on Saturday in Lincoln. Slightly warmer conditions are expected Wednesday before another deep freeze arrives.

A wind chill warning for Lincoln and eastern Nebraska remains in effect until noon Tuesday, but area residents should expect to see slightly warmer conditions Wednesday before falling back into a deep freeze.

A high of 12 degrees is forecast for Lincoln on Tuesday. Then, the temperature is expected to climb into the low to mid 20s on Wednesday.

The cold prompted Lincoln Public Schools to call off school Tuesday, the fourth weather-related closure in seven days. Some evening events may still take place, LPS said in a news release just after 7 p.m. Monday.

Another push of arctic air will bring colder temperatures with lows dipping back to sub-zero temperatures Thursday and Friday and single digits Saturday. It will start to warm up Sunday, with Monday holding the promise of above-freezing conditions.

The National Weather Service of Omaha said there’s a 20% chance of light snow Wednesday night across the entire area. There’s a 50-70% chance of accumulating snowfall beginning Thursday and continuing into Thursday night. Northeast Nebraska looks to receive the heaviest snowfall.

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“A cold system coming through could bring 1-2 inches of snow Thursday afternoon,” said Becky Kern, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Valley.

With the wind chill warning and freezing temperatures, people are advised to limit time spent outdoors and bundle up when going out is necessary. Frostbite can develop after as little as 10 minutes of exposure.

The CHI Health St. Elizabeth Regional Burn and Wound Center in Lincoln has seen an influx in frostbite patients this winter.

As of Monday, 12 patients have been admitted for frostbite in Lincoln, 12 in the Omaha metro and one in Kearney, plus more than 40 calls to the burn center from other facilities seeking advice on treatment or asking to send patients to Lincoln.

“In my 23 years of practice in this department, we’ve never seen these kinds of numbers,” said Esther Rathjen, a burn unit manager and clinical nurse specialist.

Rathjen encourages those with frostbite to seek help as soon as possible. Receiving treatment within 24 hours of exposure is key to reducing lasting tissue damage and amputation probability. St. Elizabeth has admitted patients with severe frostbite from spending anywhere between 45 minutes to six hours outside.

“It can be as simple as going out and shoveling snow,” said Eric Jensen, burn nurse and community educator.

Officials recommend wearing layers of dry clothing with a limited amount of exposed skin. People doing outdoor activities, such as shoveling snow, are advised to take breaks, go inside and rewarm before returning to the task. Keeping exposure time brief is key in preventing frostbite.

For anyone seeking shelter from the bitter cold, Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach is opening its doors this week from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The facility offers many resources, including meals between 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 pm. Guests will have access to snacks, water, coffee showers and laundry services. Outreach staff will be able to help guests make plans for overnight shelter.

As temperatures dip below freezing, electric use also increases. Lincoln Electric System offered a few tips to save energy: Lower thermostats two to four degrees, ensure that air registers are not blocked, seal up windows and external doors, turn off lights and appliances that are not in use and avoid using heavy appliances such as washers, dryers and dishwashers.

Officials also recommend people have flashlights, water, warm clothes and blankets in their homes and cars.

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