Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ode to Oklahoma - Ice Paralyzes State

Alright, so a quick note is in order. As you probably know, I'm from Oklahoma and the weather has been terrible there the past few days. Everything has iced over and fallen tree limbs are causing traffic and power problems. In the worst outage in Oklahoma history, approximately 500,000 people are without power and it will remain that way for some time. Fortunately, both of my parents' power was turned back on by this morning. Unfortunately, my grandmother is still without power. In addition to the power headaches, a giant tree that was covered in ice fell on my dad yesterday. It pinned him to the ground and took a team of neighbors and an ambulance to get him out. After searching for an open doctor, he found that he has no long term injuries-- just pain, a sprained ankle, and cuts.

Just as I'm finishing this post, President Bush declared a state of emergency in Oklahoma.

Here's an article detailing the current weather situation in my hometown:

Oklahomans Sit In Dark As Ice Turns To Rain Statewide
OG&E Calls This Worst Power Outage In State History

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Many businesses and schools are closed across Oklahoma, and massive statewide power outages are as much to blame on Tuesday as ice-covered streets were on Monday. Authorities said more than 500,000 homes and businesses have lost power, and shelters are being opened across the state.

The bad news: Electric company officials said it could be a week before power is fully restored. The good news: Freezing rain that has plagued Oklahoma for two days turned to rain overnight Tuesday, as temperatures climbed above freezing.

Officials with Oklahoma Gas & Electric said they will have a better idea on Tuesday just how long the power will be out. First, crews said, they will assess how much damage has been done across the state. OG&E spokesman Brian Alford said they will target the most populated areas first.

"If we have an opportunity to restore 10,000, we'll take that first," he said.

OG&E has requested that those who lose power report the outage; however, they have asked that customers who have reported an outage not call again. They also request that people do not call them to ask when power will be restored.

At this point, officials said, they don't know.

Furthermore, a state of emergency was declared for all 77 Oklahoma counties, and a request for federal aid was approved by President George W. Bush on Tuesday morning. The emergency declaration authorizes federal resources to assist state and local governments.

Authorities have confirmed at least 15 people have died in this ice storm.

Ice disrupted flight operations and led to wrecks that killed 13 people. Freezing conditions also led to the hypothermia death of a 46-year-old Oklahoma City transient, the state medical examiner's office said. Tulsa officials also say a person died from smoke inhalation in a fire caused by the storm.

Most of the outages were in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas. Schools across the state were closed, including at the University of Oklahoma, where finals were set to start on Monday. Ice-laden trees crashed into homes and power lines.

Most morning flights at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City were canceled. Only one of the airport's three runways was operational. The other two were iced over. Tulsa International Airport was without power after an ice storm and a spokeswoman said it may be two days before electricity is restored.

Freezing conditions hampered crews who were battling a fire at Jones High School. Nobody was injured in the early-morning blaze, but firefighters said most of the school was destroyed.
Jones, a 2,500-person town 20 miles east of Oklahoma City, was without power and had very low water pressure because there was no electricity to power water well pumps.

A number of towns reported water problems as well, including in Norman, where city officials have asked residents to conserve water. Authorities said the city's water treatment plant lost power but that they are getting water from an emergency connection with Oklahoma City.

Four people were killed in a crash near Okemah just after 7 p.m. Sunday along Interstate 40 in Okfuskee County, police said. OHP spokeswoman Betsy Randolph said 11 vehicles were involved in the fiery crash between Okemah and Seminole. All 11 cars burned, authorities said.

One person was killed in southeast Oklahoma City when a Ford Explorer crashed head-on into a tree. Another person was badly hurt and transported to an area hospital. In all, authorities said two people were killed in Canadian and Oklahoma county crashes.

Aruna Patel, 58, of Altus, died from injuries suffered when the truck she was riding in slid into a bridge railing and then got broadsided by a sport utility vehicle Sunday on U.S. Highway 62 in Tillman County, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The highway patrol also said an Elk City woman was killed when she was partially ejected from a truck that ran off the side of Interstate 40 and rolled 1½ times. The woman was identified as 44-year-old Michele C. McDaniel.

Troopers confirmed that another woman was killed in a weather-related crash in Beckham County on Saturday.

Another crash in the Oklahoma City metro area took a fire truck out of service. Police said a car smashed into the back of the truck near northeast 23rd Street and Lincoln Boulevard.
Additionally, troopers worked 19 injury crashes and another 80 non-injury collisions. OHP continues to discourage travel due to hazardous road conditions.

The highest accumulations of ice were reported at a half-inch in Miami and Bartlesville in northeastern Oklahoma and one-third of an inch in the eastern Oklahoma City suburb of Midwest City, and more pockets of freezing rain were still moving through the area, according to the National Weather Service. By the time the precipitation ends, forecasters said an inch of ice could be on roads, trees and power lines across Oklahoma City.

And that was only a preview of what was expected in the storm's second round. Another batch of ice was expected to move northward into the state overnight and continue dropping freezing rain into Monday. Up to three-quarters of an inch of ice was expected in some areas.

"(Monday) may be even more of a dilemma than today because we're going to get even a little bit more colder," John Pike, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service's Norman office, said Sunday.

The storm brought the cancellation of many church services, and Oklahoma State University also called off its football practice in Stillwater.

Pike said the most severe weather for Monday was expected along a line from Stillwater to Altus that would run directly through the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Slightly warmer temperatures were expected to melt some of the ice Tuesday, although rain remains in the forecast Tuesday and Wednesday.

Meteorologist Ray Sondat in the service's Tulsa office said temperatures in northeastern Oklahoma could reach into the upper 30s and even beyond 40 degrees in some areas Tuesday.

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