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Blizzard rakes Oklahoma, stranding motorists and closing schools

Residents hunker down during Oklahoma blizzard.
BY DAVID ZIZZO Modified: February 2, 2011 at 3:41 pm •  Published: February 2, 2011

A blizzard swept across Oklahoma on Tuesday resulting in one death and isolated power outages, damaging a casino roof and stranding everything from passenger cars to emergency vehicles.

The weather closed roads, airports, schools and businesses. Frigid air and snowy conditions will cause more closures today.

With an onslaught reminiscent of Christmas Eve 2009, Tuesday's storm dumped about a foot of snow in some parts of central Oklahoma, with northeastern portions of the state getting even more.

But this time, people seemed to heed warnings and storm forecasts, with many staying home and off the roads.

“We know that's playing in our favor,” said Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for State Emergency Management.

For those who did venture out, drifting snow and slick roads made for nightmarish driving conditions.

A sledding accident was the first reported death related to the blizzard. Oklahoma City Police Sgt. Greg Driskill said a 20-year-old woman died about 4:30 p.m. near Lake Stanley Draper, after she was thrown off a sled being pulled by a vehicle. The sled veered off the road and flung the woman, who was pronounced dead at the scene in the 8700 block of Stanley Draper Drive. The victim's name was not released.

National Weather Service meteorologist Forrest Mitchell said 12.1 inches of snow fell at Will Rogers World Airport, a daily and monthly record, and the second largest snowfall in the city in one day. The Christmas Eve blizzard of 2009 saw 13.5 inches of snow in one day.

Mitchell said today smashed the all-time daily record for snowfall on any day in February. The previous record was 6.5 inches on Feb. 7, 1986. Records date back to November 1890.

Cold to stay

As the worst of the storm began to lumber out of the state, officials cautioned that the bitter cold would remain for days, and so could many of the problems.

“This is not going to be a one-day event; it's going to be a multiple-day event and we need patience,” Ooten said.

Highs were not expected to get above freezing until sometime Friday. Many schools were closed again today.

Northeastern parts of the state have been hit hard. Snow totals included 19 inches (drifts to 6 feet) near Owasso and 17 inches at Hominy. Winds of 39 mph, with gusts of 46 were recorded, in Oklahoma City. Guymon at one time reported minus-7 degrees. At Boise City the wind chill dipped to minus-36 at 9:05 a.m., the coldest in the history of the Mesonet system. By the early evening, it was 9 degrees in Oklahoma City.

Fourteen inches were reported in Tulsa, setting several records for the city, according to the weather service. Across the state, activity on Tuesday was not so much paralyzed as hunkered down since officials had taken pre-emptive actions to close schools, businesses, courthouses and many other government offices. The Northeastern part of the state got the worst of it.

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