Snow fell across a wide area of drought-plagued Oklahoma on Tuesday, bringing much-needed moisture to the state but contributing to slippery conditions for motorists and pedestrians.
Brook Hensley, 39, of Edmond, was killed in a traffic accident after the car in which she was a passenger went out of control in snowy conditions on U.S. 281 about 60 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.
The Emergency Medical Services Authority in central Oklahoma responded to 24 calls regarding falls, with 19 people taken to hospitals.
EMSA reported 18 traffic accidents, with 10 people taken to hospitals.
Some churches, schools and organizations canceled afternoon and evening activities.
Winter storm system
Some areas in the Panhandle and western Oklahoma reported 5 inches of snow, while parts of Oklahoma City received as much as 3 inches, the National Weather Service reported.
“In places it's going to be hard to measure because a lot more snow fell than what's on the ground obviously because, like around here, it was so warm, it was just melting as it was hitting,” said Rick Smith of the weather service's Norman Forecast Office.
“It's almost impossible to forecast the exact locations of the greatest snowfall much in advance, but it seems like the highest totals we've heard were within the winter storm warning area in west central and northwest Oklahoma.”
Smith said Tuesday's weather resulted from a pretty typical snow-producing storm system for Oklahoma.
A cold front moved through during the weekend, bringing cooler, although not exceptionally cold, air into the area.
“At the same time, we had a storm system in the upper levels that came out of the Rocky Mountains and is moving right now south of Oklahoma,” Smith said early Tuesday afternoon.
“With the colder air in place and then the energy from that upper level storm system, those factors came together in the right spot to produce the bands of heavy snow that we saw this morning.”
For some, the snow — and in some areas, rain and snow — was at least a little something in a time of ongoing drought.
Alan Jett, 56, a rancher in the Slapout area in the eastern Oklahoma Panhandle, said he had probably received about 5 inches of good, wet snow by midday Tuesday.
And for that, he said, he was extremely thankful.
He said this type of snow is good because it wasn't going to blow off, it was melting, bringing the much-needed moisture. That area is in among the 40 percent of the state in exceptional drought, the worst of the U.S. Drought Monitor categories.
“Every drop of moisture that we can get in this deal is very much appreciated, no doubt about that,” he said. “I've never seen anything like this. I've heard about it in the '50s and the '30s, but I've never seen anything like it.
“If we don't grow grass, then we can't run cattle, and if we don't run cattle, we have no way of making a living.”
Gary McManus, of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, said it was good that this snow was the type that could soak in where it fell rather than drifting and leaving bare spots.
McManus said the standard rule is that about 10 inches of snow equals 1 inch of water. However that can vary depending on conditions. On Feb. 9-10, 2011, 27 inches of snow fell at Spavinaw, an Oklahoma record for 24-hour snowfall.
“It ended up being 1.26 inches of liquid when melted down,” McManus said. “It was extremely cold. It was the kind of snow they see up north a lot.”
Lows early Wednesday are expected to go below freezing, thus leaving the possibility for slick areas, Smith said. He added that portions of the state that had deeper snow amounts on the ground will see that influence their temperatures Wednesday.
However, Smith also said that in the Oklahoma City metro area, temperatures are expected to be back in the 40s and close to 50.