MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 5, 2013

Icy blast roars in; Fallin declares statewide emergency


Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Emergency Operations Center has been activated due to a winter storm that has crossed the state and left at least three dozen people injured and another storm that was headed toward Oklahoma.

The Thursday storm prompted Gov. Mary Fallin to declare a state of emergency for all 77 counties.

State Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain says the center includes the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Oklahoma National Guard, Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, Salvation Army, American Red Cross and other disaster relief agencies.

The Health Department reports 36 storm-related injuries. The severity of the injuries was not released.

Officials say most roads in the state are considered slick and hazardous.

Fallin declared a state of emergency that allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and preparedness. It is also a first step toward seeking federal assistance should it be necessary.

National Weather Service forecaster Daryl Williams said that although snow and freezing precipitation will be seen during the day Thursday, the brunt of the storm is expected overnight and into today.

“The most substantial amounts will be later tonight, through the overnight hours and through tomorrow,” he said.

Williams said chilly temperatures will be a concern. In the Oklahoma City area, temperatures are not expected to reach above freezing until Tuesday. The last time the area experienced a similar cold snap was in 1996, Williams said.

The frigid temperatures led Oklahoma State University to shut down a makeshift tent community that students had set up ahead of Saturday’s Bedlam rivalry football game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, according to the Tulsa World.

Debbie McCarthy, coordinator of special events for OSU Athletics, told the newspaper that the camp was shut down Wednesday because officials were concerned that propane heaters being used in tents could cause carbon monoxide poisoning or start a fire.

Some cities had already canceled holiday events ahead of the storm, and schools across the state also called off classes.

Edmond resident Lori Billy, 40, said she was hoping her two kids, ages 8 and 11, would have a snow day on Friday. If so, the three would stay inside in their pajamas, watch movies and finish decorating the Christmas tree, she said.

Jesse Walton, who has lived in Oklahoma all his life, was bracing Thursday for up to 4 inches of snow, plus ice. The Guthrie resident was out with his daughter Wednesday stocking up on the usual food supplies, such as bread, soup and water. He described the shopping scene from the previous night that looked like “Black Friday, because there was an ocean of people.”

Walton said he and his family got stuck out in the major winter storm that clobbered the state in early 2011, and vowed to be more prepared the next time around. So he recently snapped up some DVDs to make the time pass faster.