Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management
Situation Update 3
March 27, 2009 – 9:30 p.m.
WINTER STORM IMPACTING STATE
Due to the severe winter weather, the State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) remains at Level Two activation, which involves extended operating hours for key personnel. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) is in contact with emergency managers in the affected areas.
Snow is confined primarily to areas north of I-40 in western Oklahoma and west of I-35 in northern Oklahoma. Showers and thunderstorms continue across eastern Oklahoma.
Snow will continue through much of the night for Oklahoma and start to end in the panhandle and northwest by late morning Saturday. Snow should clear the state by late Saturday evening. A blizzard warning continues for the Oklahoma panhandle and northwest for 10-15 inches of snow. North-central Oklahoma remains under a winter storm warning where snow accumulations of 6-10 inches are possible. Central and west-central Oklahoma is under a winter storm warning where 4-8 inches of snow are possible.
STATE OF EMERGENCY
A State of Emergency continues for 50 Oklahoma counties affected by the storm. The executive order marks a first step toward seeking federal assistance should it be necessary. Additionally, the order allows state agencies to make emergency purchases and acquisitions needed to expedite the delivery of resources to local jurisdictions.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports, since midnight, troopers have worked 30 collisions in the northwest area of the state as a result of the storm. Eleven crashes involved injury.
Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives reports about 500 Northwestern Electric customers in Beaver and Harper counties are without power. High winds caused galloping power lines causing the outages. Snowdrifts continue to present access issues for restoration crews.
OG&E reports 1,349 customers without power in Harrah, Kremlin, Medford and Nardin.
The American Red Cross is operating a shelter at the Methodist Church in Guymon, at Sixth and Quinn. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is providing meals at the shelter.
Additionally, local officials have opened shelters at the Boise City Methodist Church, Hardesty Baptist Church and the Hooker Fire Department.
The shelters are needed primarily for motorists left stranded by blizzard conditions.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health continues to monitor all nursing homes and hospitals in the impacted area. Isolated reports of power outages were received however local health departments were able to handle the situation. Health department personnel will respond with strike teams to shelter operations being established.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) reports all roads in the panhandle are closed. Roads are extremely hazardous, snow- and ice-packed, with accumulations of sleet in many places.
Crews are out with trucks and graders – all trucks are out in every county in the northwest part of the state. Although Texas Department of Transportation has closed I-40 at the Oklahoma/Texas state line, I-40 to the west in Oklahoma is still open, but travel is discouraged due to the possibility of becoming stranded. ODOT crews will be rotating in 12 to 16-hour shifts around the clock until the storm passes. A second wave of crews will go out behind the storm to do final cleanup.
ODOT stressed that travel in the affected areas is strongly discouraged. The roads have been treacherous, even for their crews, who have encountered extremely strong winds and visibility so low they had to retreat temporarily at times until winds subsided.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports roads are also slick and hazardous in Beckham, Canadian, Custer, Dewey, Kay, Osage, Roger Mills and Washita counties.
During snow and ice conditions, motorists are reminded to:
- Stay at least 200 feet behind road clearing equipment; crews need room to maneuver and can engage plowing or spreading materials without notice.
- Do not attempt to pass road-clearing equipment.
- Be aware that conditions are continually changing; drive cautiously and for the conditions on the roadway.
- Allow extra space between vehicles so there is adequate distance for braking in wet and icy conditions.
- Be aware of "black ice" conditions, which looks wet on the roadway but is a thin layer of ice.
- Please be patient, plan trips ahead and allow extra time in reaching destinations.
To check CURRENT ROAD CONDITIONS call the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety's ROAD CONDITIONS HOTLINE 888-425-2385. For out-of-state road conditions: Texas 800-452-9292 and New Mexico (800) 432-4269
OEM has requested FEMA industrial-size generators which will be used for shelters and to provide power to water treatment facilities in the event of major electric service disruptions. Already state generators were pre-staged in the panhandle.
Blaine County Emergency Management reports multiple wrecks due to the inclement weather including a rollover accident reported west of Watonga. Watonga fire, EMS and Blaine County Sheriff's deputies responded to this accident. The weather in the northern portion of the county remains a mix of sleet, snow and freezing rain while the southern portion of the county continues to see rain. The wind is out of the north at 10 to 15 mph with gusts of 20 mph.
Ellis County Emergency Management reports heavy snow causing limited visibility.
Geary Emergency Management reports 1.5 inches of snow on the ground with additional snowfall at about 1 inch per hour. Winds are gusting at 15-20 mph. Roads are very slick between I-40 and Watonga on Highway 281.
Harper County Emergency Management reports blizzard conditions continue with near zero visibility. One roll-over accident reported.
Woodward/Woodward County Emergency Management reports blizzard conditions and quarter-mile visibility and a total of six roll-over accidents for the day.