Winter in the Midwest can be a feast for the senses: the comforting taste of hot cocoa by a warm fireplace, the sight of fresh snow on evergreen trees as picturesque as a Bob Ross painting, the laughter of children whizzing down alabaster hills on their sleds. This time of year also brings ice scrapers shrieking against frozen windshields, tires spinning in vain, and white-knuckled motorists trying to reach the top of a snow-packed hill—then trying to successfully stop at the bottom. All Omahans have their least favorite spots for winter driving, but there are some common locales so infamous they may as well be marked with caution tape come snowy days.
Eastbound on Farnam Street Approaching 42nd Street
This one’s a double-whammy of steep hill and sharp curve where Farnam Street morphs into Harney Street. Ice and snowpack can make it tricky to stay in a lane as the road esses and the grade steepens. Just beyond the traffic light at 42nd Street is the remaining hill between there and 40th Street—a beast if the road is even remotely slick.
Southbound on 78th Street Approaching Pacific Street
Another steep hill, but a decline as opposed to an incline. On some roads, it’s OK to slide or spin out a bit because there’s nothing much to run into. At this treacherous spot, the scariest possibility is that drivers may be unable to stop and can slide into five lanes of traffic on perpetually busy Pacific Street.
Westbound on Blondo Street Approaching 90th Street
This mega hill is no fun for drivers headed downhill to the east, but it’s worse for those heading west uphill. Those driving straight west on Blondo have a fighting chance, especially when they hit a green light right at the bottom of the hill crossing 85th Street; but good luck to those who turn westward off 85th and need to generate momentum. Cars routinely get stuck all the way up to 90th Street as this road shows no mercy in snowy times.
Eastbound on California Street Approaching 40th Street
This ultra-steep incline is well known as a mettle-tester for every manual-transmission driver in Omaha. Those who drive up this hill and achieve the perfect balance of clutch and gas without rolling back too far or killing the engine on a summer day have officially mastered manuals. Add winter road conditions and, even in an automatic, it’s an incredible feat for any driver to make it up the hill and through the intersection. If the light turns red here on an icy or snow-packed day, drivers should pray.
Westbound on State Street at Military Avenue
State Street slopes up here so that coming to a full stop at the stop sign likely means drivers won’t make it through the intersection. But, in true quagmire fashion, failing to stop at the stop sign is also quite dangerous.
Harrison Street Between 42nd and 48th Streets
The consecutive hills throughout this stretch make it like riding a wave—but not a fun, beachy, summer one. This “wave” of hills makes for a tricky stretch and more than a few people have gotten stuck here several times.
This article was printed in the January/February 2020 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.