The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 25, 2013

Blizzard rolls across northwest Oklahoma

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Monday’s blizzard turned deadly as a man was killed in Woodward when heavy snow brought down part of a house’s roof.

Matt Lehenbauer, director of Woodward County Emergency Management, said a house partially collapsed on the city’s south side. The area was under a blizzard warning all day Monday and received more than a foot of snow. At times, winds gusted to about 50 mph.

Lehenbauer said other collapses have been reported in the city, and firefighters and emergency medical technicians have been caught out in the weather.

Forecasters were predicting almost two feet of snow across parts of northwest Oklahoma as the second winter storm in a week rolled east across the state. A large swath of northwest Oklahoma was expected to get 15-20 inches of snow, according to National Weather Service. Garfield County was expected to get 8-20 inches, depending on location, according to NWS.

Conditions throughout northwest Oklahoma forced Oklahoma Highway Patrol to close highways in the area Monday afternoon.

Troop J, headquartered in Enid, closed: Oklahoma 11 between U.S. 281 and Byron (north of Alva); U.S. 64 from Alva west to the Woods/Harper County line; U.S. 412 from Orienta west to the Major/Woodward County line; Oklahoma 51A at the Blaine/Major County line to Watonga; Oklahoma 45 from the Alfalfa/Garfield County line west to U.S. 281; and Oklahoma 33 east of Watonga to the Blaine/Kingfisher County line.

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb declared a state of emergency for 56 counties as blizzard conditions began wreaking havoc with whiteout conditions and visibility near zero.

Counties included in the state of emergency are: Garfield, Adair, Alfalfa, Beaver, Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, Cherokee, Cimarron, Cleveland, Comanche, Cotton, Craig, Creek, Custer, Delaware, Dewey, Ellis, Grady, Grant, Greer, Harmon, Harper, Jackson, Kay, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Lincoln, Logan, Major, Mayes, McClain, McIntosh, Muskogee, Noble, Nowata, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Okmulgee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Payne, Pottawatomie, Roger Mills, Rogers, Seminole, Texas, Tillman, Tulsa, Wagoner, Washington, Washita, Woods and Woodward.

Lamb issued the executive order at the request of Gov. Mary Fallin. It allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and preparedness. It also is a first step toward seeking federal assistance, should it become necessary. Under the order, the emergency lasts for 30 days.

As of 4:45 p.m. Monday, Mike Honigsberg, director of Enid and Garfield County Emergency Management, said Enid had received 2.5 inches of snow.

“After conferring with other meteorologists for our area, thinking is we could still manage to receive up to 8 inches of snowfall before it ends tomorrow,” he said. “[Keeping] in mind all the variables out there for this, we may see more or less.”

OG&E Electric Services reported power out to 4,865 customers Monday evening, including 1,221 in Enid. John Little, OG&E regional manager, said Monday tree limbs falling onto power lines were causing problems, as was the wind, which blew distribution lines into each other, causing the circuit breakers to open.

Other outage numbers as of 6:40 p.m. were: Alva, 203; Canton, 485; Carrier, 101; Cleo Springs, 297; Drummond, 288; Hennessey, 185; Ringwood, 218; Seiling, 646; Watonga, 288; and Waukomis, 119.

Fairview, which has a municipal power system, also lost power Monday.

Heavy snow also collapsed the awning of the Sonic Drive-In in Alva, said Woods County Emergency Management Director Steve Foster.

Foster said there was 6 inches of snow at 11 a.m., and it continued throughout the day. By 5 p.m., Foster estimated there was 12-15 inches of snowfall in the area.

“We had a few carports fall in the snow,” he said. “We’re just holding tight until it gets out of here.”

First National Bank of Seiling also lost a employee carport to the snow, Mayor Mickey Louthan said.

Enid area law enforcement spent Monday afternoon responding to several injury accidents, mostly caused by speed and the condition of the roads.

Enid Police Department Sgt. Bryan Hart said those who do not have to travel should stay at home.

“If you do have to get out, slow down, pay attention to your driving behavior and the behavior of those driving around you,” he said. “Clear all of your windows and make sure your vehicle is operable and safe to drive in these conditions.”

Hart also said drivers need to stay off their cellphones and devote their full attention to driving. Officers responded to four injury accidents between 2 and 4 p.m. Monday, mostly due to drivers going too fast.

Sheriff Jerry Niles said his office was assisting Oklahoma Highway Patrol with accidents along Garriott and out in the county.

Niles said many of the accidents were single-vehicle, and the contributing factors were speed and the road conditions.

“We’re asking people to slow down,” Niles said. “They need to turn on their lights even in the daytime, because people are having trouble seeing them and are having to swerve.”

Niles said motorists should avoid all unnecessary travel.

“There are people out there right now waiting over two hours for a wrecker,” he said. “Anyone who goes out there tonight and gets stuck is contributing to the problem.”

Responders worked a rollover wreck at Leona Mitchell and Southgate about 12:55 p.m. Responders also were sent to 2800, 7600 and 8400 blocks of East Garriott for accidents. Accidents were reported on U.S. 81 near Keowee and near Kremlin. An accident also was reported on Breckinridge Road.

For the latest conditions of Oklahoma roads, highways and interstates, call (405) 425-2385.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.