MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 13, 2013

December storm leaves high death toll


— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A December storm that left ice, snow and sub-freezing temperatures across Oklahoma was not as severe as crippling ice storms and blizzards the state has experienced in recent years, yet the weather was blamed for the deaths of 10 people who suffered fatal injuries in collisions, fires and other accidents.

Public safety officials provided Oklahomans with advance warning as the storm pushed into the state, and they urged residents to stay off the roads after ice and snow coated streets and highways, making driving treacherous. But officials said accidents resulting in injury or death are almost inevitable when bad weather strikes.

“I’m sad that there are 10 people who lost their lives,” said Lara O’Leary, spokeswoman for the Emergency Medical Services Authority. “I think 10 is too many. Of course, one is too many.”

At least four weather-related fatalities were attributed to traffic accidents, including a 5-year-old boy from Fort Gibson who was killed when a van he was riding in overturned on an icy road as the storm moved into the state on Dec. 5.

“Accidents do occur when bad weather happens,” said Lt. Brian Orr of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. “Anytime you have bad weather, you definitely want the motoring public to slow down.”

Last year, a total of 660 traffic accidents statewide were attributed to snow, blowing snow or sleet, resulting in 355 injuries and four fatalities, Orr said. Although winter weather sometimes makes traveling treacherous in Oklahoma, it’s not as common as in other parts of the country, he said.