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

As of 9 p.m., there were about 36,000 statewide power outages related to the storm, according to Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain.

Of those outages, more than 19,200 were reported by the Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, she said, including over 5,200 Cimmaron Electric and 4,600 Kiwash Electric customers.

More than 12,200 Public Service Co. of Oklahoma customers were in the dark across seven southwestern counties. More than 5,500 customers were without power in Elk City and Weatherford had just over 4,000 outages, Cain said.

As of 10 p.m., more than 14,100 Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. customers were also without power, including just over 5,000 in Enid, according to the SystemWatch website.

The city of Watonga was completely without power Monday night, including Watonga Municipal Hospital, which was running on generators.

“As far as the hospital goes, our emergency department is open so we can function fully. We're not too concerned. I'm better off at the hospital than at home,” said April Neill, charge nurse for the hospital.

Watonga City Hall was opened and powered by generators for people who need power for nonemergency purposes, she said.

“We have a lot of people calling to ask if they can come hang out here. They can hang out at city hall until the power is back on,” Neill said.

Stranded motorists

More than a foot of snow fell in Woodward County before noon, with more snow expected. Wind gusts of 30 to 35 mph caused whiteout conditions.

Lehenbauer said firefighters are having trouble reaching stranded motorists. They also had trouble responding to two house fire calls as more than a foot of snow made roads impassable even for fire trucks.

“Even though the highways have shut down, there have been a few people who have been venturing out,” Lehenbauer said. “We've got our hands full.”

Law enforcement and emergency medical personnel responded to calls in military cargo trucks and Humvees, Lehenbauer said. About 200 people in Woodward were without power Monday, and Lehenbauer said power likely won't be restored until Tuesday at the earliest.

“The problem is trucks are not able to reach those areas to do the repairs just because of the road conditions,” Lehenbauer said. “Most of those power outages are going to probably extend through the night because we aren't going to be able to get a handle on the roads until the snow stops.”

Lehenbauer said an awning fell at a Mooreland convenience store, and the outdoor garden center at the Woodward Walmart collapsed, but no major damage was reported.

Chris McBee, a storm chaser, got stuck outside Woodward.

“We were planning to go back to Oklahoma City tonight, but the road was just impassable,” McBee told The Associated Press. “You couldn't see 50 feet in front of you.” A man with a bulldozer dug out McBee's vehicle.

Clearing snow also was the biggest challenge in Alva, where 15 city workers were sanding and salting city streets Monday morning, City Manager Joe Don Dunham said.

The University of Oklahoma in Norman and Oklahoma State University in Stillwater closed Monday afternoon because of weather predictions.

All Northern Oklahoma College campuses, Tonkawa, Enid and Stillwater, are closed Tuesday, said Bill Johnson, the college's director of public information.

Flights canceled

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines canceled a total of 23 flights from 1 p.m. Monday through 10:40 a.m. Tuesday, said Karen Carney, Will Rogers World Airport spokeswoman.

As the weather system moves through the metro area, there may be additional cancellations. Travelers can check flight information at flyokc.com.

“We don't want to get people stranded at the airport,” Carney said.

Airport maintenance crews are ready to clear runways and taxiways and make every effort to keep the airport operational, Carney said.

The winter weather was good for busy Monday at Ace Hardware, 1509 W Britton Road. Floor manager Michael Vredenburg said there was a high demand for snow-related merchandise including ice melt, shovels and sleds.

Contributing: Staff Writers Robert Medley, Carrie Coppernoll and Joey Stipek and The Associated Press



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