MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 5, 2013

Oncoming winter blast scrambles schedules around state

Football finales, Christmas parades shifted or canceled


Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A winter storm expected to plow through Oklahoma starting Thursday has led officials to postpone high school state football championship games and cities to cancel holiday festivities across the state.

The National Weather Service says rain Thursday will switch to freezing rain in parts of the state, with freezing rain and sleet continuing into Thursday night. Much of the precipitation is expected to become entirely snow before ending Friday. A half-inch of freezing rain is possible in some areas, along with significant sleet. Power outages are expected, and travel will be treacherous.

The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association says the 6A state football title game between Jenks and Union has been rescheduled from Thursday in Stillwater to Dec. 12 in Tulsa, and that other games will be rescheduled for next week.

Holiday events during the next few days have been canceled in several cities, including Edmond and Sand Springs.

In Moore, officials canceled the Christmas in Old Town event featuring horse-drawn carriage rides and a tree lighting ceremony, which was to take place Friday night.

City spokesman Jayme Shelton said Old Town Association officials feared putting residents in potentially unsafe situations. Moore, which was rocked in May by a deadly tornado, is cognizant of severe weather, he said.

“We’ve dealt with a lot of weather this year and we want to be as cautious as possible and trust the experts at the National Weather Service,” Shelton said.

Financial considerations also figured into the decision, he said, because some of the offerings — like the carriage ride — depend on people turning out to recoup costs.

The cancellations and postponement of events has led some residents and visitors to get ready to hunker down for the next few days. Susan Daniel, 61, who lives in Dallas but is visiting Oklahoma City, was shopping at Whole Foods for her husband and 4-year-old grandson.

Daniel, who is taking care of the little boy while her son and daughter-in-law are away, said she was buying frozen dinners, muffins, salads, peanut butter and cereal bars.

“When I’m in a city I don’t know very well, it makes you a little bit nervous,” she said of the pending storm.

A spokesman for the American Red Cross said it is in contact with emergency managers, and volunteers and possible shelters are on standby.

Rick Denny, president and CEO of the Jesus House, which provides services to about 80 homeless people in Oklahoma City, said it has been operating at capacity for the last week, but can add about 30 more beds if all the shelters in the city are full.

If the forecast is correct, the weather could become life-threatening, Denny said.

“If you want to know the weather forecast, ask a homeless person. They’re aware it’s coming, and we expect significant movement tonight and tomorrow night as this thing comes in,” he said.

Ada resident Billy Gibson, who has lived on his 2,000-acre grass ranch for nearly 40 years, said he is making sure his prize possession is in working order.

“It’s real simple,” Gibson said Wednesday. “The first thing I did was make sure my generator was running.”

His take on the weather projections? “I’m looking for ice and then maybe snow. I’m looking for it to be bad.”

But, like many ranchers and farmers, Gibson is a pragmatist: “We’ll make it. We’ll make it,” he said.