A storm dropped snow and ice on Oklahoma on Thursday, snarling traffic, closing schools and businesses, and likely contributing to at least two deaths — with even worse weather expected Friday.
Charles Spence, 5, of Fort Gibson, suffered fatal injuries in a rollover accident shortly before 10 a.m. Thursday in Muskogee, police said. His mother lost control of her van on an icy bridge. Others in the vehicle had minor injuries.
An unidentified homeless man was found dead under an Oklahoma City overpass at Interstate 235 and NE 23, and police think his death was related to the frigid weather.
State of emergency
“The weather is bad and getting worse,” Gov. Mary Fallin said. “Emergency personnel are coordinating with state and local officials to ensure we are prepared and ready for whatever comes our way.”
She declared a state of emergency in all 77 counties in Oklahoma. The declaration allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and also represents a first step toward seeking federal disaster assistance, if necessary.
Some businesses closed early. Classes were canceled Thursday afternoon and Friday at many schools and universities.
Emergency Medical Services Authority personnel responded to 14 motor vehicle accidents by 3:40 p.m. in the Oklahoma City metro area alone, spokeswoman Lara O’Leary said.
Thirty-three City of Oklahoma City trucks dumped a salt mix on roads ahead of the snow, but some roadways remained icy and traffic slowed to a crawl on the Broadway Extension and other major roads.
Behind the wheel of one of those trucks Thursday was Larry Fleming, 52.
“It’s kind of dangerous,” he said. “The public doesn’t yield to you when you’re trying to do your job. They’re trying to get around you and they don’t want to wait.”
Mix of precipitation
The metro area received a sleet and snow mix from Thursday afternoon into evening hours, said Jonathan Kurtz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, Norman Forecast Office. Northern areas of the state received mainly light snow while much of southern and southeastern portions of the state had freezing rain for much of the day.
Kurtz said forecasters expected a band of snow overnight Thursday into early Friday from Altus northeast to the Oklahoma City metro and toward Tulsa, with accumulations of 2 to 6 inches.
Driving conditions were expected to worsen with additional snow overnight Friday and temperatures expected to dip into the teens.
Joe Sellers, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, Tulsa Forecast Office, said the majority of northeast Oklahoma had received sleet and snow.