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Dangerously low temperatures linger in blizzard's icy aftermath

Dangerously low temperatures linger today in Oklahoma. The blizzard has moved on but not the cold Arctic air.
BY ROBERT MEDLEY and BRYAN DEAN Modified: February 2, 2011 at 12:04 pm •  Published: February 2, 2011

Gov. Mary Fallin is scheduled to give a status report on the winter emergency situation at noon today at the state Emergency Operations Center at the Capitol.

Dangerously low temperatures have kept Oklahoma in a deep freeze, though the blizzard that struck Tuesday has moved out of the state.

The temperature in Oklahoma City at 11:30 a.m. today was 9 degrees. The high temperature is expected to be in the low teens, the National Weather Service reports

Many people were stranded in their cars on the turnpikes and interstates Tuesday night as they got stuck in snowdrifts. Oklahoma National Guardsmen and Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers helped rescue travelers stuck in their cars.

Lt. Col Max Moss, a spokesman for the National Guard, said soldiers have helped 132 people stuck in 82 vehicles since yesterday, many of them overnight.

About 160 soldiers and 50 Humvees and light trucks were used to search for stranded motorists.

“We had groups of two-man teams each in two Humvees,” Moss said. “They would go up and down the turnpike as well as the interstate looking for folks who needed help.”

When the soldiers found people, they took them either to shelters or someplace where friends or relatives could meet them and take them somewhere safe and warm, Moss said.

“That is actually continuing this morning on the Will Rogers Turnpike from Tulsa east to the state line,” Moss said. “We are on standby for the rest of the state waiting to see where we're needed.”

The danger of frostbite, frozen pipes that could burst and hypothermia lingers with the state's winter blast of Arctic air.

People in Oklahoma City are digging out from a foot or more of snow. Roads remain icy and snow-packed. Tow truck drivers remain busy pulling vehicles from snowdrifts.

Temperatures are not expected to rise above freezing until Friday.

There are 11 shelters and warming stations open, offered by the Red Cross, Salvation Army and communities. They housed 92 overnight occupants. The locations are Bristow, Pryor, Adair, Okemah, Vinita, Broken Arrow, Claremore, Henryetta, Miami, Muskogee and Lawton.

The state Health Department reports at least 123 winter storm-related injuries treated at hospitals throughout the state. Of that number, 77 injuries resulted from falls. Many of the most severe winter weather injuries occur from slips and falls, including simple activities such as checking the mailbox, according to a news release.

The health department urges caution, especially since thawing and refreezing of ice and snow will likely continue for several days. People who have poor balance should avoid ice and snow altogether. When venturing outdoors, be sure to take a fully charged cell phone with you in case you need to summon help, the release states.

Of additional concern is prolonged exposure to the extreme cold temperatures forecast for the next two days. Frostbite, hypothermia and even death can result from exposure to cold, with infants and the elderly most at risk. When outdoors, wear layered clothing, a hat and gloves and cover all exposed skin to prevent frostbite. While indoors, try to keep at least one room heated to 70 degrees.

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