A winter storm featuring rain, ice, snow and wind is expected to move into the state today and officials are scrambling to be prepared. The storm was expected to move into northwestern Oklahoma overnight, and rain is expected to start freezing about the lunch hour in the Oklahoma City area, the National Weather Service said. "It’s one of those awkward situations where the Oklahoma City metro is along the freezing line,” forecaster Aaron Gleason said Wednesday evening. "It’s going to be a bit messy. The farther north and west you go, the more snow we’re expecting, and more ice and less snow in the southeast.” The storm will arrive from the southwest. Warm southerly winds will keep temperatures above freezing near the ground until a cold front from the north drops temperatures below freezing and causes rain to turn into sleet, ice and later snow, forecaster Christine Riley said.
Executive actionsGov. Brad Henry declared a state of emergency Wednesday for all 77 counties. According to the release, the declaration provides a formal mechanism for local governments to seek reimbursement for recovery costs through the state’s disaster public assistance program, should conditions warrant. The executive order is also the first step toward seeking federal aid should it be necessary. A companion order signed by Henry waives weight and size limits on state roads. The waiver allows heavy power company vehicles to be positioned across the state. Emergency officials are concerned about widespread power outages caused by an ice storm that is expected to strike most of the state, the governor’s press office said. Ice accumulations of up to half an inch are possible in the Oklahoma City area, forecasters said. An inch or two of snow could then pile on top of the ice. "Any ice that accumulates certainly has the potential to knock things down. Our primary concerns are power outages and branches falling from trees,” Gleason said. The type of precipitation along the Interstate 44 corridor could vary throughout the day, forecasters said. Rain and freezing rain was expected to fall through the early afternoon before giving way to sleet and eventually snow in the evening. Light snow and flurries should continue through Friday morning. Some areas northwest of I-44 may receive up to 10 inches of snow. Snow is not likely southeast of the interstate, but up to a quarter inch of ice is possible in southern and southeastern portions of Oklahoma. The storm’s blustery winds are not likely to be as bad as the devastating gusts during the Christmas Eve blizzard but should still be strong enough to create blowing snow and drifts, according to the weather service. Sustained north winds of 20 to 30 mph are possible with gusts up to 35 mph. Gusts over 50 mph occurred during last month’s blizzard. Temperatures are expected to stay below freezing through Saturday, but warm up slightly on Sunday and the expected high in Oklahoma City on Monday is 33 degrees, Gleason said. CONTRIBUTING: MICHAEL MCNUTT, Capitol BUREAU
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