A sledding accident was the cause of the first death related to today's blizzard, Oklahoma City police said this afternoon.
Police Sgt. Greg Driskill said a 20-year-old woman died after a sledding accident about 4:30 p,m. in the 8700 block of Stanley Draper Drive, next to Lake Stanley Draper. Driskill did not release the name of the woman.
Officials warned conditions would remain dangerous this evening even though the snowfall in the Oklahoma City area has ended. Poor road conditions, dangerously cold temperatures and blustery winds will remain a problem for days.
“It's going to be a multiple-day event, and we need patience,” said Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the state Emergency Management Department.
The National Weather Service canceled a blizzard warning for central Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City, but a wind chill warning was issued in its place. Temperatures in the Oklahoma City area remained in the upper single digits about 6 p.m., with wind chills of minus 9 or colder. Blowing snow is expected to continue to affect the area for the rest of the day.
The sledding accident was the only reported fatality related to the weather as of 6 p.m., and only a handful of weather-related injuries and other medical conditions had been reported.
Officials continue to discourage travel of any kind due to hazardous road conditions, snowdrifts and dangerously cold temperatures throughout the state.
Oklahoma City crews begin to dig out
Crews began plowing and salting Oklahoma City roads about 4 a.m., streets superintendent Mike DiGiacomo said. An additional 30 trucks have been called in from organizations that have contractual agreements with the city to help out in emergencies.
Fire and Emergency Medical Services Authority officials said emergency crews have dealt with a lower-than-normal number of emergency calls today, a sign that people are heeding warnings to stay off the roads. But EMSA spokeswoman Lara O'Leary urged people with medical emergencies to call 911 instead of trying to get to hospitals on their own.
Anyone who must get out in the snow should bring emergency supplies including extra clothes, blankets, food and water in case they get stuck, police Capt. Patrick Stewart said. State officials urge anyone who gets stuck to call 911 and remain inside the vehicle until help arrives.
Abandoned vehicles that are marked with blue or yellow tape have already been checked by emergency officials, fire Deputy Chief Cecil Clay said. Clay asked people not to call 911 about vehicles marked with the colored tape.
Roads closed throughout state
The state Transportation Department and Oklahoma Highway Patrol report numerous road closures. The Oklahoma National Guard has been deployed to rescue stranded motorists.
Interstate 44 is closed from near Stroud to the Missouri state line, a stretch of road that includes most of the Turner and Will Rogers turnpikes. Interstate 40 was reported closed near Okemah in east-central Oklahoma. Westbound lanes of I-40 also were closed east of Henryetta where several stuck tractor-trailer rigs are blocking the road.
Interstate 35 was closed in the Arbuckle Mountains in southern Oklahoma. U.S. 69 at Calera was also closed because of an overturned tractor-trailer.
The Indian Nation, Creek and Muskogee turnpikes are closed either entirely or in stretches, state troopers said.
Oklahoma City-area roadways are impassable in some areas.
“It's only going to get worse at night,” Oklahoma County District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan said. “Virtually every intersection has snowdrifts that can make them impossible to pass.”
Metro Transit bus service has been suspended for the rest of the day and for Wednesday, spokesman Michael Scroggins said.