Icy blast hits Oklahoma

Jason Elmquist/Stillwater News Press Ice began accumulating throughout central Oklahoma on Monday as winter weather moved into the state.

The western half of Oklahoma is braced for freezing rain, ice and all that go with them as an unseasonably cold front blows through the state, forcing businesses, state agencies and schools to shut down.

Towns north of Stillwater, like Perry, were glazed with ice by early Monday while a chilly rain fell on Stillwater, which remained around or just above freezing throughout the day.

Stillwater Emergency Management Director Rob Hill said he believes the ground temperature is high enough thanks to recent warm weather to prevent ice accumulation on most roads around the city. Drivers still need to watch for ice on bridges and overpasses, areas that aren’t warmed by the ground and that are more affected by air temperature and wind, he said.

Hill encourages people to follow SEMA on Facebook or on Twitter as @stwSEMA for updates on local conditions.

Power outages were another concern Monday.

Hill said because the weather system arrived early enough for tree limbs to still be heavy with leaves, any ice accumulation is more likely to cause broken limbs and consequently, power outages as those limbs hit electric lines.

City Manager Norman McNickle said the City of Stillwater has electric utility and tree trimming crews on standby to deal with power outages.

Stillwater Electric quickly responded to an outage in Southwest Stillwater around 2 p.m. Monday that affected 1,435 customers. Service was restored within two hours, Electric Utility Director Loren Smith said in an email update.

As of Monday evening, the OG&E System Map showed the utility still had more than 100,000 customers without power, including 406 customers around Stillwater, 278 in Glencoe, 145 in Perkins, 96 in Agra, 77 in Wellston and 473 in Guthrie. A majority of the outages were in the Oklahoma City area.

Stillwater Electric customers who experience power outages are advised to report and track their outages online at stillwater.org/reportpoweroutage or by calling 405-372-3292.

McNickle said City road crews are also on standby to treat streets with sand and de-icer.

Because Perkins Road is State Highway 177 and Sixth Street is State Highway 51, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is responsible for both those roadways but city crews will treat early trouble spots like bridges, he said.

Major arterial get first priority, including Main Street, Duck Street, Boomer Road, Washington Street and downtown Stillwater as well as roads that provide access to the Stillwater Medical Center emergency room, fire stations, schools, Oklahoma State University and Stillwater Regional Airport.

Minor arterials, heavily-traveled four-lane streets, are second priority and collector streets, busy streets that collect traffic from neighborhoods and provide access to major and minor arterials, are third priority.

City crews don’t have the resources to clear neighborhood streets, the City of Stillwater said in a message posted to Facebook on Monday.

Stillwater Regional Airport is prepared to treat its runways thanks to a new de-icing system put into use last year but limited ability to de-ice planes could still cause flight cancellations, McNickle said.

Stillwater’s flights are also impacted by weather delays at other airports, he said.

Stillwater Regional Airport advised travelers departing from Stillwater to monitor their flights during inclement weather on the flight tracker at aa.com, http://ow.ly/r2Sc50C3cCF.

Closings

The Stillwater Farmer's Market announced it won't be holding Wednesday market hours this week at the Prairie Arts Center. The market is expected to re-open Saturday.

Area schools, including Oklahoma State University and Northern Oklahoma College, closed early on Monday in response to the threat of icy roads.

NOC, which also has campuses in Tonkawa and Enid, announced all campuses would be closed Tuesday and all activities would be canceled.

Yale Public Schools canceled its Junior High football game with Depew and 5th and 6th grade basketball games at Ripley that were scheduled for Monday, due to weather.

Glencoe also canceled its Tuesday 5th and 6th grade basketball game with Davenport.

Cushing Public Schools announced that if it closes due to inclement weather, students will transition to distance learning for snow days.

The district will send Chromebooks and materials home with students in advance whenever possible and they can access lessons through Canvas, administrators announced on Facebook.

Stillwater Public Schools Communications Coordinator Barry Fuxa said Stillwater students, who just started their first five-day week of school since August, won’t be doing distance learning if they have a snow day during this round of inclement weather. It will just be a day off.

That could change in the future, but those decisions need to be discussed more and will be made as we get closer to the time of year when winter weather is more common.

Stillwater's superintendents will begin assessing road conditions starting around 4 a.m. and their decisions about whether to hold school will be announced around 6 a.m., Fuxa said.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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