After a winter storm moved into the Altus area Saturday, safe driving conditions quickly diminished. Rains from Saturday quickly turned to ice, and by Sunday morning snow and sleet began falling on the area, as well as across the state. By Sunday afternoon, many homes in the area lost power, and by Sunday night, the town was completely without power. Statewide, 200,000 customers lost power. Some homes regained power overnight, but it was still out in parts of Altus this morning as crews continued to work on fixing the problem. Others in the outlaying areas were told they may be without power for a week or more.
A message went out this morning to all Altus residents that, at the request of the Altus City Council, citizens are being asked to continue to conserve water because power was still not stable and Tom Steed Reservoir is running on a generator. “Your cooperation is appreciated,” said Altus Emergency Management Director Lloyd Colston.
Gov. Mary Fallin is extending a state of emergency to all 77 Oklahoma counties after this weekend’s winter storm brought ice to western and central parts of the state. Heavy flooding was reported in the east and northeast.
Fallin issued an executive order Monday extending a state of emergency originally declared after a winter storm battered the state last month. The order extends the state of emergency for another 30 days and allows state agencies to make emergency purchases for disaster relief.
Fallin issued a second executive order that temporarily suspends size and weight permits for oversized vehicles transporting supplies and materials for storm relief.
The storm brought ice and freezing rain across much of western, central and northern Oklahoma, and heavy flooding to the east.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health reports 104 storm-related injuries have been treated by Oklahoma hospitals across the state as of 6 p.m. on Monday. These injuries include 58 falls, 30 transportation-related injuries, nine poisonings, and three cuts.
Police in far southwest Oklahoma City discovered the body of a woman outside early Monday that was being investigated as a potential exposure death, but there were no other confirmed storm-related fatalities, said Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner’s office.
Much of eastern Oklahoma had heavy rain, with two-day totals of up to 12 inches and record flooding in some locations, while western and north-central parts of the state had freezing precipitation that iced roads and power lines, according to the National Weather Service. Altus Air Force Base Weather said that their sensors were “in and out” because of the freezing precipitation, so they were unable to determine an exact amount of accumulation, but local reports suggest one to three inches of dense snow. Because of the density of the snow, plus the rain and sleet, the Altus area should see a good amount of actual water from the storm. The National Weather Service shows clear to partly cloudy skies over the next week with highs in the 40s. The next chance of snow is for next Tuesday. Accumulations are predicted to be less than one inch.
“The freezing line this weekend was right across central Oklahoma, and we saw a very narrow corridor of freezing rain, an ice storm, where we’ve seen up to an inch of ice measured and significant power outages due to the strong winds,” said weather service meteorologist Ryan Barnes. “We saw gusts exceeding 70 mph at a few locations.”
The storm system pushed out of northeast Oklahoma early Monday afternoon, but temperatures were expected to remain at or below freezing across much of Oklahoma, with overnight lows in the teens in central Oklahoma and single digits in in western parts of the state.
The Commissioner of Public Safety, as authorized by the Governor, announced that due to inclement weather, the Department of Public Safety could temporarily reduce non-essential services on Monday for Tillman, Jackson, Kiowa, Harmon and Greer Counties. Altus Air Force Base was also closed on Monday.
Lines began forming at all Altus gas stations on Saturday night. With power outages, the lines vanished, but were back in place after power was up sporatically across town. Most business from the downtown square up Main Street were open Monday, with most business down Broadway still closed due to lack of power.
Storm damage across the city include wind and damage from snow and ice accumulations. Awnings at both the Falcon Road Stripes convenience store and the Bulldog gas station were both damaged. The awning over the gas pumps at the Loves Convenience Store in Mangum also fell. Countless branches, utility poles and lines, and trees fell due to heavy accumulations of ice. One resident said that the high winds blew out a window on the north side of their house.
Colston said that the City of Altus is aware of the power outages impacting residents and said, “All the electric vendors are working hard to restore power to the area, including the City of Altus,” he said.
In the mean time, citizens are encouraged to use safe measures as they shelter in place. Colston reminded citizens with generators that they should NOT be connected to the house. The result of that action, according to Colston, may be an electrocuted electric department worker.
Wayne Cain, Jackson County Emergency Management, stressed that the generator should not be used indoors but rather should be run out-of-doors.
“Run the generator chord to the devices one wishes to power,” said Cain.
Using generators, open flame heaters, candles, and other heat sources can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Signs of CO poisoning include headaches, fatique, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. CO poisoning is a medical emergency. Persons with these symptoms should seek medical treatment.
“Persons should use caution using candles,” said Cain. In addition to carbon monoxide, these are one of the most common causes for house fires.”
“Please do not call 911 to report power outages,” stressed Colston. The utilities are aware of the damage. Please call 911 ONLY for life/safety issues.
Persons desiring additional information may call Colston at 580-481-2260 while 580-482-0229 is the number for Cain.
Reach Michael Bush at [email protected]