Thousands of Oklahomans awoke early Thursday to a rare winter thunderstorm that dropped heavy sleet and forced the closure of most schools in the Oklahoma City metro area.
The same storm system dropped a foot of snow in parts of northwest Oklahoma.
Officials in Oklahoma City said the storm wasn't as bad as they feared, but black ice remained a concern for Friday morning.
The highest snow total in the state reported by the National Weather Service was 13.5 inches in Alva.
Alva firefighter Chris Morris said the snow essentially shut down the town.
“We've got around a foot in most places,” Morris said. “Most people who tried got stuck out on the streets, and there are cars just piled everywhere.”
City crews used front end loaders to clear snow from Alva's main streets but didn't have the time to get to neighborhood streets Thursday.
“Cars are just buried,” Morris said. “They can't get them out. Most places are shut down.”
Snow totals of 12 inches or more also were reported in Texhoma and Waynoka.
Oklahoma City crews worked through the night as sleet fell, but temperatures rose and precipitation turned to rain by the time most people got on the roads, city spokeswoman Kristy Yager said.
“The rain had a huge effect on melting that snow and ice,” Yager said.
Lara O'Leary, spokeswoman for the Emergency Medical Services Authority, credited employers for allowing workers to come in late and administrators who closed most metro schools Thursday.
“Considering the volume of sleet and the pace of the storm, there was potential for a lot of calamity,” she said. “Medics were busy responding to more car crashes than normal, but nothing like we were anticipating when we were watching the sleet come down.”
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