Oklahoma is beginning a slow thaw after a deep freeze Monday that kept Oklahoma City schoolchildren at home, some motorists frustrated, the homeless population in jeopardy, and left even livestock trembling.
Temperatures in the metro area did not rise above freezing and the National Weather Service reported two record lows across the state — Tulsa at minus 2 degrees and Ponca City at minus 3 degrees.
Oklahoma City had a low of 6 degrees at Will Rogers World Airport, and the Oklahoma Mesonet's Oklahoma City-North location, at Broadway Extension and Wilshire, had a wind chill low of minus 8 degrees.
Oklahoma City Public Schools were closed, as interim superintendent Dave Lopez said the subfreezing temperatures were a cause for student safety concerns. At least seven outgoing flights were canceled from Oklahoma City because winter weather in the Midwest and Northeast, and eight flights into Oklahoma City were canceled.
Kevin Brown, senior forecaster with the Weather Service's Norman Forecast Office, said Monday provided some of the coldest temperatures from the Canadian air mass that made its way into Oklahoma last weekend.
Forecasters expect a slow warm-up.
“Although we will be warmer tomorrow (Tuesday), the increasing south wind will still feel quite cold,” Brown said. “Wind chills Tuesday morning will start off as low, zero into the single digits.”
Car battery conundrum
The phone rang more than 100 times Monday morning at the Interstate All Battery Center on N Broadway Extension.
Below-freezing temperatures translated to above-average business for general manager Keith Moran.
Moran and 10 full-time employees spent the day swapping batteries for frustrated motorists. Moran said with little to no warning, old batteries drained by summer heat won't last long in subzero temperatures.
“The heat will damage batteries, but they'll keep working because the climate is just right and everything fires right off,” Moran said. “When it gets cold like this, all those fluids don't want to go. When you turn that key and it takes more than the battery has, it's done.”
Matt Heasley, a 32-year-old rancher from Pampa, Texas, was in Oklahoma City with his fiancee Monday morning. When he turned the key in the ignition of his 2003 diesel Dodge truck, his 4-year-old battery didn't have enough juice.
“The cold finally snapped it,” Heasley said. “But I didn't even know there was supposed to be snow on the ground, so I had no idea this was going to happen.”
Aside from the inconvenience of getting a jump from a fellow driver and making a quick stop at the battery center, Heasley said the process wasn't too stressful. But Moran said it's a problem that can be avoided with the right preparation.
“It's all about preventative maintenance,” Moran said. “There's never a convenient time for battery failure, so just continually get it checked.”
When Guy Rose left for work at 4:30 a.m. Monday for the hour-and-a-half drive from Agra to the Oklahoma National Stockyards, he didn't touch the heat dial in his pickup.
“That way,” Rose said. “I wasn't warm in my truck, and then I get out and get cold that much quicker.”