At least five deaths can be attributed so far to the winter storm that walloped Oklahoma on Thursday, officials said. Authorities hope a full day of sunlight and dry weather helped kick-start efforts to thaw the Sooner State.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported four pedestrians were killed when they left their vehicles on state roadways Thursday during the storm and were struck by passing cars. A Marlow man died in Stephens County when he tried to help a stranded motorist, a Lawton man died in Comanche County when he got out of his car after a wreck and a Seminole man died in Seminole County when he got out of his stalled car. An Oklahoma City man died in a hit-and-run incident when a passing vehicle hit him as he aided a stranded motorist on Interstate 40 in El Reno.
An Oklahoma City man died Friday in Grady County when his sport-utility vehicle slid on ice and rolled on U.S. 81, troopers said.
Midwest City police also found a 79-year-old woman dead on her front porch this morning in the 1600 block of Oelke Drive, Police Chief Brandon Clabes said. She had no signs of trauma to her body may have died of exposure, but the medical examiner has yet to confirm a cause of death. Clabes said a neighbor called police this morning to say he saw the woman on the ground near her front door. The woman's identity has not been released.
Officials are urging state residents to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary. Highways and streets remain slick and hazardous at best or impassable at worst throughout Oklahoma, though authorities said conditions are slowly improving.
Ooten said several official shelters have been opened throughout the state, and many churches, private organizations and family homes have been made available to stranded motorists and travelers.
"The Oklahoma standard of caring is alive and well," Ooten said.
Cold weather all week in Oklahoma
Daytime high temperatures are expected to remain below 40 degrees until New Year's Day at the earliest, according to the weather service.
Saturday's weather is expected to be similar to today's, forecasters said. The state should remain dry and cold through the weekend.
Today's high temperatures exceeded forecasts by several degrees.
Weather service and Oklahoma Mesonet stations in the Oklahoma City area all reached at least 34 degrees today. The weather service stations at Will Rogers and Wiley Post airports and Mesonet stations in north and west Oklahoma City topped out at 37 degrees. Only a handful of stations in northeastern and northwestern Oklahoma recorded high temperatures at or below freezing.
Direct sunlight can still melt snow even when temperatures are near or below freezing, meteorologist Andrew Taylor said. The dry conditions should also allow sublimation, which is similar to evaporation of liquid water.
One runway open at Will Rogers
Will Rogers World Airport, which shut down Thursday afternoon, has re-opened with one runway operational, city airports director Mark Kranenburg said today.
Many flights remain delayed or canceled because few aircraft were able to make it to Oklahoma City by this morning, Kranenburg said.
Travelers are discouraged from coming to the airport without first checking with their airline.
Officials removed many vehicles from Meridian Avenue and Terminal Drive today and towed them to a nearby gravel lot, Kranenburg said. The cars had to be moved to make it easier for plows to clear the roads so emergency personnel, airport workers and travelers could make it to the airport.
Power slowly coming back on for many
The state Corporation Commission reported about 4,000 utility customers were without electricity late this afternoon, but the number included more than 2,000 Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. customers in the Oklahoma City area. The number of OG&E customers without power dwindled to about 730.
More than 5,000 metro OG&E customers had been without power Thursday evening and more than 3,000 still had no power this morning.
Only about 140 Lawton-area residents remained without power late this afternoon, a spokeswoman for the Public Service Co. of Oklahoma said. About 14,000 had been without power Thursday. Power is expected to be restored to almost all customers by this afternoon.
PSO asks any customers still without power to call (888) 218-3919.