MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 20, 2013

Snowfall fun for kids but not street crews

With ice possible today, they vow readiness

By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Area emergency management departments and street crews battled almost blinding snow early Wednesday, and they are prepared for the possibility of more nasty weather today.

The heaviest snowfall in Muskogee stopped about noon, and with temperatures hovering near freezing, most departments reported no serious problems. The National Weather Service reported that Muskogee received nearly three inches of snow.

Parts of Cherokee County reported receiving 4 to 5 inches of snow, Cherokee County Emergency Management Director Gary Dotson said.  

Jim Wixom, the assistant director of operations in Muskogee’s Public Works Department, said: “We had two trucks out. And we’ll have guys working overnight, and we’ll bring guys in early as a precaution.”

Muskogee County Emergency Management Director Jeff Smith said the National Weather Service is giving “pretty good” odds of at least some ice by this morning.

“The forecast hinges on a measure of degrees,” Smith said. “Could be more snow, or sleet or freezing rain.”

Smith said forecasters were expecting anywhere from as little as one-tenth of an inch of ice to about half an inch. The weather service describes anything more than one-fourth of an inch of ice as an “elevated” amount. Forecasts called for 100 percent chance of precipitation Thursday morning.

“We always prepare for the worst,” Smith said. “We weren’t expecting as much snow as we got Wednesday.”

Smith, along with emergency management directors in Cherokee, Wagoner and McIntosh counties, reported an increase in traffic accidents but no real disasters.

“The county had numerous crashes on rural roads,” Dotson said. “Nearly all the schools closed, so our main concern was staying in contact with everyone and making sure kids weren’t getting sent home early to houses with no parents, where they couldn’t get in.”

Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokesman Cody Boyd said 10 crews were handling area highways.

“All these crews are ready to be working through the night and into the morning,” Boyd said. “That’s 150 employees. They’ll be treating bridges, hills and curves tonight; that’s where most of the danger comes from.”  

Boyd said the ODOT crews were planning on more salt and sand overnight when temperatures drop. Temperatures were expected to dip below freezing this morning before rising in the afternoon.  

“When there’s snow or ice, we tell drivers to take it easy and avoid travel if they can,” Boyd said. “We always want to stress that. It’s not just your own driving you need to be aware of in this case. That’s why if people can stay home, we have fewer drivers on the road.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.