Five Years Later: Remembering Oklahoma's Christmas Eve Blizzard Of 2009
TULSA, Oklahoma - It set records for snowfall in towns across Oklahoma and forced people to cancel or change their Christmas Day plans.
Five years ago, on December 24, 2009, a blizzard shut down many parts of the state.
According to News On 6 meteorologist Dick Faurot, it was one of only a few times when the word "blizzard" has ever been correctly applied to weather in Tulsa. In fact, 2009 was the first time it had ever been used for all of northeast Oklahoma. The previous blizzards had been in far northwest Oklahoma.
"We do not typically get the kind of wind at the same time we are getting snow to qualify as a blizzard," he said. But we sure did that day.
In order to qualify as a blizzard, the National Weather Service specifies sustained wind or frequent gusts of 35 miles per hour or greater, accompanied by falling and/or blowing snow, frequently reducing visibility to less than a quarter of a mile for three hours or longer.
"Five-point-four inches of snow fell into the night with the snow ending shortly after midnight when another 0.4 inches fell leaving a total of almost 6 inches on the ground to start Christmas Day," Faurot said. He said the National Weather Service rounded the total up to six inches for the official record.
"The 5.4 inches of snowfall is a record for Christmas Eve for Tulsa and the 6 inches on the ground for Christmas Day tied a record first set in 2002 from snow still on the ground from a December 23rd snowstorm that year," he said.
Other parts of Oklahoma received much more snow than that. For instance, the 14.1 inches that fell in Oklahoma City is an all-time 24-hour record with records going back to 1890.
The blizzard forced thousands of Oklahoma to change their Christmas travel plans, but also stranded many people on roads and highways where they were forced to leave their vehicles behind.
The storm knocked out power to thousands of Oklahomans, meaning they celebrated the holiday with no lights or heat.
Stacia Deming Lipe posted a touching story about the blizzard on the News On 6 Facebook page:
"After my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she booked a trip for our whole family to San Francisco on Christmas morning. With the snow, our flight was canceled. The airline recommended flying standby, so we tried, with little hope of 7 seats becoming available. At the last minute, they called all of our names - exactly 7 people did not make their flight. I am forever grateful to those seven strangers that allowed us to literally have the trip of a lifetime."
Kristen Scott wrote:
"My daughter and son-in-law are celebrating their 5th anniversary today. The wedding was ending just as the sleet was beginning. We drove to my brother's to celebrate Christmas. By the time we left, the snow was getting deep. We got stuck at 81st and Memorial and had to abandon the car in the driveway of the QT. My brother rescued us and returned us safely to home. The newlyweds couldn't make it to their hotel room and the reception had to be canceled. But a rocky start couldn't stop true love, and we will celebrate what that kind of love brings tonight, with the whole family together again, including a beautiful grandson."