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Deadly blizzard socks western Oklahoma

BY MATT DINGER, BRYAN DEAN and MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: February 25, 2013 at 11:15 pm •  Published: February 25, 2013

A state of emergency was declared Monday for 56 Oklahoma counties because of a winter storm that produced a deadly blizzard in the northwestern part of the state but left Oklahoma City relatively unscathed.

More than an inch of rain fell across Oklahoma City, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet, but the anticipated snow totals fell far short.

The National Weather Service in Norman downgraded its predictions for snowfall across Oklahoma City to fall within the 1- to 3-inch range across the metro area overnight. Most areas are expected to see less than an inch, but some locations may accumulate 2 or 3 inches, the weather service said.

There is a 50 percent chance of snow before 7 a.m. in Oklahoma City, then gradually becoming sunny with a high of 37 degrees. Winds are expected to decrease as the day goes on, but gusts up to 36 mph are possible, according to the weather service.

Woodward County

But Woodward County was pummeled from midnight to midnight by rain and then snow, with 13.2 inches reported by emergency management to the weather service.

A 71-year-old man died Monday afternoon when a house partially collapsed on the south side of Woodward, said Matt Lehenbauer, emergency management director in Woodward County. The collapse was reported in the 3600 block of 22nd Street, he said. The man's name was not immediately released.

Seven snowplows were stuck across the county, and 12 emergency responders stranded in the blizzard at sundown were rescued by 10 p.m., Lehenbauer said, including five firefighters, two emergency medical technicians, one sheriff's deputy and four county commission employees who were driving plows.

“That's a lot of our snow-clearing equipment that's stuck out there. We're getting drift reports between 4 and 9 feet,” Lehenbauer said.

The blizzard was beginning to wind its way down in the county by 10 p.m., and efforts to rescue stranded motorists will continue through the night.

By 7:30 a.m., all highways in the Oklahoma Panhandle had been shut down because of the blizzard, Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokeswoman Betsy Randolph said. Many other roads and highways in northwest Oklahoma were closed by early afternoon.

For current information about Oklahoma road conditions, call 425-2385 or go online to www.dps.state.ok.us.

Emergency declaration

“The winter storm has already caused dangerous travel conditions in northwest Oklahoma, as well as subfreezing temperatures,” said Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, who issued the emergency declaration at the request of Gov. Mary Fallin, who was in Washington, D.C., attending a National Governors Association meeting.

Fallin, who is vice chairman of the nonpartisan governors' group, was to return to Oklahoma on Monday night, but her arrival has been delayed until at least Tuesday because of the storm, Lamb said.

“This is a very serious winter storm, and we want Oklahomans to stay safe,” Lamb said.

The executive order Lamb issued allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and preparedness. It also is a first step toward seeking federal assistance, should it be necessary.

Oklahoma County is among the counties covered in the declaration. Other counties are Adair, Alfalfa, Beaver, Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, Cherokee, Cimarron, Cleveland, Comanche, Cotton, Craig, Creek, Custer, Delaware, Dewey, Ellis, Garfield, Grady, Grant, Greer, Harmon, Harper, Jackson, Kay, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Lincoln, Logan, Major, Mayes, McClain, McIntosh, Muskogee, Noble, Nowata, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Payne, Pottawatomie, Roger Mills, Rogers, Seminole, Texas, Tillman, Tulsa, Wagoner, Washington, Washita, Woods and Woodward.

Power outages

Thousands of customers were left without power as the blizzard pounded the western half of the state.

“I have a gas cooking stove and got the oven going,” Ann Smith, owner of the Standifer House Bed and Breakfast in Elk City, said late Monday afternoon. Her daughter and grandchildren had come over because they lost power.

“If it gets cold tonight, I guess we'll have to put pallets in the kitchen,” Smith said with a laugh.

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