Officials relieved to see improving weather conditions

Rusty Bingham finds plenty of dry space to take a Friday midday walk along Broadway. Temperatures peeked above freezing on Friday and are expected to get warmer over the next few days.

Brisk temperatures on Friday offered a perfect opportunity for Rusty Bingham to take a midday walk.

"I'm out enjoying the beautiful temperatures," Bingham said, pausing along Broadway. 

He said he had stayed inside since coming to Muskogee from Norman about a week ago.

Across Muskogee, more people headed outside Friday as temperatures edged above the 32-degree freezing mark. Temperatures are expected to reach into the 40s this weekend and into the 50s by Tuesday, according to AccuWeather.

Main streets throughout Muskogee were clear and dry. However, many side streets, roads, alleys, parking lots and sidewalks remained covered with snow.

City Manager Mike Miller said he expects city street crews to move from clearing snow and ice to assessing damage the weather caused.

Miller said the city has a handful of significant water line leaks, caused by thawing from extremely cold weather. He said he expects more water issues in coming days. 

"For the most part, our priorities for fixing those leaks are if someone doesn't have water service, along with if there is a major water line break," he said. "A secondary one is leaks that are causing really bad traffic conditions."

Sanitation crews will work a catch-up day Saturday to make up for not working on President's Day, Miller said. 

"And, we had problems with the landfill being closed Tuesday."

Regular sanitation routes are to resume Monday, he said.

Muskogee Mayor Marlon Coleman said city workers "deserve the highest applause."

"They worked, some of them, around the clock," he said. "Employees at the water plant, for example, making certain that water was still going to homes. Sanitation and street crews working nonstop in crossover capacity, helping each other to be certain that water lines were done, when there was trash they got to it, throwing sand and salt. I saw two city workers one day manually throwing salt and sand in the intersection."

County crews spent Friday clearing snow off roads, District 1 County Commissioner Ken Doke said.

"We're focused primarily on paved roads, then on the gravel roads next," he said. "We're hoping to see some melt-off in addition to our salt and sand operations. The combination of clearing roads, salt and sand and a little bit warmer weather should make a big difference throughout the weekend. I expect to see roads clearing pretty quickly."

However, county residents and small communities could expect to experience water issues, he said. 

"We have a number of cities, towns and rural water districts that are struggling right now," Doke said. "Mainly because of water leaks and/or people running their faucets to keep their pipes from freezing. Usage is way, way up."

Water providers are having problems keeping up with the increased use, he said.

"That's causing volume pressure problems," he said. "A lot of that should self-resolve when the temperatures come up and people start turning their taps off. That should re-pressurize the system and give the water plants a chance to fill back up."

Doke said President Biden approved an emergency declaration for Oklahoma. The declaration, issued Thursday, orders federal assistance to state, local and tribal response efforts. Doke said the county is awaiting word on what the funding will cover.

"We did have some significant costs in responding to this event," he said.

Coleman also praised how Muskogee citizens, businesses and charities responded to the snow and frigid temperatures.

"The people of Muskogee have pulled together in remarkable ways during what we've seen the past several weeks," he said. "They've donated blankets to people in homes that didn't have adequate heating. Not only did they donate blankets, they took it upon themselves to bring the blankets to them during this weather."

James Hodge Ford donated vehicles to Muskogee Police to help officers get through the snow, Coleman said. Gospel Rescue Mission opened its chapel for a warming center.

"Other residents took it upon themselves, where there were homes they knew were without adequate heat, they brought food and water," he said. 

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