Relief, disappointment over failed winter storm forecast for Oklahoma City

Officials said memories of a 2009 Christmas blizzard likely caused Oklahoma City residents to take last week's winter storm forecast more seriously, but they worry the no-show snow will cause complacency.
BY BRYAN DEAN and LEIGHANNE MANWARREN Published: March 3, 2013

Shoppers swarmed grocery stores, road crews mobilized heavy equipment, airlines canceled flights and young people crossed their fingers for a blizzard that never came to Oklahoma City last week.

Then the city escaped significant snowfall.

The massive storm dumped more than a foot of snow Monday and Tuesday in northwest Oklahoma and brought 6 inches as close as Kingfisher County. But temperatures in the Oklahoma City area remained above freezing, defying winter storm forecasts and leaving many with conflicting feelings of relief and disappointment.

Business owners and emergency management personnel said the false alarm was taken quite seriously by thousands of area residents, in part because of memories of a 2009 Christmas Eve blizzard that left many people stranded in their vehicles or shut in their homes.

“We deal with what we call the law of recency,” said David Barnes, Oklahoma County emergency management director. “The more recent we have had a situation, the more we are likely to remember it and prepare for it.”

Rush for groceries

Much like the May 3, 1999, tornado outbreak caused many Oklahomans to take tornado warnings more seriously, the memory of being buried in a foot of snow stuck with people, Barnes said.

Crest Foods operations manager Eric Lollar said the rush for groceries whenever meteorologists predict snow and blizzard-like storms has increased since the big storm in 2009.

“There always has been a rush of going to the store when cold or bad weather is being predicted, but not nearly as bad as it has been in the last couple of years,” he said.

The stores typically stock up in the winter on food such as stew meat, beans, rice and canned chili, along with cold weather items like ice melt and car scrapers.

“We keep an eye on the forecast, and we can get a truck out every day except Sunday,” Lollar said. “We will order heavy to prepare for it so everybody can get what they need, and we try to accommodate everybody with a heavy stock.”

Emergency managers recommend families keep nonperishable food, water and supplies that can last at least 72 hours. Barnes said he hopes people who bought those items before last week's storm keep them on hand so they can avoid a last-minute rush next time.

Fear of complacency

While most Oklahoma City residents probably were relieved they weren't snowed in, Barnes said he has heard a note of disappointment that the forecasts were wrong.

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Everyone likes a little snow. But I'm glad we didn't get the blizzard conditions.”

David Barnes,
Oklahoma County emergency management director

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