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.
Will Rogers World Airport closed
All flights at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City were canceled today. Airport officials said now that the snow has stopped, they are trying to clear the east runway and taxiways to the terminal by this evening, although no flights are scheduled until morning.
Airport spokeswoman Karen Carney said passengers should check with their airlines about rebooking. The earliest flights are expected to arrive about 8 a.m., with departing flights beginning midmorning.
Record preliminary snowfall totals recorded
A preliminary total of 11.6 inches of snow fell at Will Rogers World Airport between midnight and noon today, weather service meteorologist Forrest Mitchell said. That total is unofficial and will be confirmed later, he said.
“With the wind blowing like it is, it's extremely difficult to accurately measure snowfall,” he said.
Mitchell said today smashed the all-time daily record for snowfall on any day in February. The previous record was 6.5 inches on Feb. 7, 1986. Records date back to November 1890.
Northeastern parts of the state have been hit hard, with 14.5 inches reported east of Owasso and 13.2 inches of snow in Tulsa, setting several records for the city, according to the weather service. Henryetta has received 11 inches of snow.
Drifts building throughout metro, state
The blizzard caused problems for all of Oklahoma City's rescue vehicles, but few felt the sting more than Oklahoma City Fire Station No. 30 at 4343 S Lake Hefner Drive. orthwest Expressway made it difficult for the engine, rescue ladder and chief's vehicle to respond to calls.
Maj. David Graham said high drifts blocking the station's overhead doors and a section of road that provides access to N
Graham said drifts were about three feet, if not higher.
Graham said the station has a Bobcat attempting to keep a path clear, but it had trouble keeping up. Earlier in the day firefighters could be seen shoveling snow, but the high winds made that impossible.
Graham said the engine was able to respond to a first aid call about 1 p.m.
“They were able to get out, but it was no easy deal,” he said. Fortunately, Graham said, there have been few calls to respond to.
Power outages fluctuate
Power outages climbed during the late morning but declined by early afternoon.
About 4,000 Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. customers in the Oklahoma City area were without power late this morning, but the number was cut in half by noon and to about 200 by 4 p.m., according to the company website.
“We're seeing a mix of large widespread outages along with smaller, scattered ones,” OG&E spokesman Brian Alford said. “Wind and extreme cold are the primary causes.”
He said repairs are coming along slowly.
“Getting to problems is — as you would expect — the toughest issue,” Alford said.
Oklahoma City-area forecast:
Tonight: A 20 percent chance of snow showers before midnight. Cloudy with a low around 3. Wind chill values as low as minus 14. Windy, with a north, northwest wind 26 to 29 mph decreasing to between 16 and 19 mph. Winds could gust as high as 40 mph.
Wednesday: Cloudy with a high near 12. Wind chill values as low as minus 15. North, northwest wind between 15 and 17 mph with gusts as high as 28 mph.
Wednesday night: Mostly cloudy with a low around 2. Wind chill values as low as minus 12. North, northwest wind between 7 and 15 mph.
Thursday: Mostly sunny with a high near 22. Northwest wind between 7 and 9 mph.
Contributing: Staff Writers Robert Medley, Matt Patterson, Matt Dinger, Jennifer Palmer, Jane Glenn Cannon and Jay Marks.