Some of the coldest weather of the season gripped the state Wednesday, forcing school closures, boosting the population at homeless shelters and increasing the number of emergency services calls.
The low temperature at Will Rogers World Airport dipped to 10 degrees Wednesday. Winds gusting to 30 mph dropped the wind chill to as low as minus 10 degrees.
Frigid conditions will continue, and the snow is expected to return. Accumulations of up to 2 inches were possible in central Oklahoma by Thursday morning. Temperatures were expected to stay below freezing until Saturday.
“This has been said more than a few times this winter so far, but Feb. 5 was one of its coldest days,” Gary McManus, state climatologist with the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, said Wednesday afternoon. “Lows dropped down into the single digits across much of the northwestern half of Oklahoma, with teens and 20s to the southeast.
“Tomorrow's temperatures are forecast to be even lower with lows from below zero to single digits across virtually the entire state with similar wind chill readings as today.”
Oklahoma City Public Schools closed Wednesday for the second day this week.
Although precipitation halted across the state Wednesday, emergency medical services continued to respond to weather-related injuries.
EMSA spokeswoman Lara O'Leary said there were two cold exposure calls from midnight to 2 p.m. — compared to no calls of that nature over the past few days. There were also 19 reports of slip-and-fall injuries, a count O'Leary called “extremely high.”
O'Leary cautioned drivers and pedestrians to proceed with extreme caution Thursday.
Officials at City Rescue Mission, 800 W California Ave., said the emergency shelter has averaged about 225 people per night over the past couple months. The most recent count of overnight residents rose to 356 in the wake of the current cold snap.
The coldest spot in the state Wednesday was Boise City. Frigid temperatures paired with strong winds tied this winter's record for wind chill, as Boise City hit minus 25 degrees, meeting the mark set in Alva on Jan. 6.
Boise City also recorded the state's lowest morning temperature without wind chill, at minus 2 degrees. But 63 Oklahoma Mesonet weather network stations had low temperatures of 10 degrees or below.
Snow began falling in western parts of the state Wednesday evening. It is expected to accumulate to 2 to 3 inches in southern and northwestern Oklahoma, 1 to 2 inches in central parts of the state, and a light dusting to the north.
“It's not record-breaking cold,” said Forrest Mitchell, a National Weather Service spokesman. “Typically, our normal high values this time of year in central Oklahoma are in the low 50s. But we have been below zero before.”
The cold weather led gas utility companies to call a moratorium on shutting off services for nonpayment of bills.
The Department of Human Services offers an Energy Crisis Assistance Program, which provides households up to $650 in payment to prevent cutoffs, restore service or establish new service. Applicants must qualify within income guidelines.