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Brief respite, then more winter weather for Oklahoma

Updated:
Winter eased off long enough for many children in snow-blanketed parts of Oklahoma to return to class Thursday and ponder the thought of school well into June.

Freezing drizzle and light snow fell overnight in some parts of Oklahoma, but in Tulsa it didn't warrant calling of school for the fourth day in a row.

``The little snow flurries we had last night weren't enough,'' Tulsa Public Schools spokesman John Hamill said. ``The streets were wet this morning even though temperatures were well below freezing.''

Southern parts of the state were expected to finally thaw Thursday. But the forecast indicated winter might not be finished yet.

Another storm is expected follow Friday, bringing the threat of snow, freezing rain or rain.

``We'll have a break on Saturday with what looks to be another chance of light rain and what could be light snow on Sunday,'' said Joe Sellers of the National Weather Service in Tulsa.

Some school districts in eastern Oklahoma canceled classes again Thursday because snow-packed side roads remained treacherous.

School officials in Tulsa were considering their options for making up school days lost to snow and a teacher's rally. Combined with a later start this year, children could be in school until June 11.

Hamill said the district could decide to make up the time by holding class during a scheduled parent-teacher conference day in March or by asking the state Board of Education to let it lengthen remaining school days.

``And we're not out of winter yet,'' Hamill said. ``We haven't had our annual March ice storm.''

The cold weather has been blamed for the death of Enid woman and it may have played a role in the death of a Sperry man, authorities said.

An Enid police officer checking on the welfare of Geneva Beckwith found her body Monday inside her home, where the temperature was 21 degrees. The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office ruled she died of hypothermia.

Officer Quent Tubbs said he saw Beckwith's dog on the floor dead when he looked in the house through a window. After getting inside, Tubbs found Beckwith, 84, in a back room, his report stated.

Tubbs found two space heaters Beckwith had received from the Salvation Army, but they were not turned on, his report stated.

In Tulsa, coroners determined that Richard O. Martin Jr. died of heart failure. But a sheriff's official said the weather may have been a factor in his death.

Martin's vehicle slid into a ditch in north Tulsa County, and investigators believe he suffered heart failure and died while walking back to his house. He was found about 4 a.m. Tuesday in the snow.

Oklahoma communities tallied the storms' monetary costs as well.

Even before Wednesday, the city of Tulsa had exceeded its overtime budget for road crews by $6,000. City trucks have applied more than double the budgeted amount of salt to city streets, said Bob Bledsoe, Public Works Department spokesman.

The town of Newkirk and Kay County both declared emergencies through the Oklahoma Department of Civil Emergency Management, said spokeswoman Michelann Ooten.

Newkirk cited $30,000 in response costs and Kay County claimed $1 million in response and damage costs.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation did not have estimates yet on storm costs. But as many as 1,200 maintenance workers had been working throughout the state since Saturday to keep roads passable, said spokeswoman Terri Angier.

The department expects to remain well within the $8 million budgeted for winter road clearing since it only spent $3.6 million last year, she said.

``You can't just not clear the roads,'' Angier said. ``We don't make snow and ice removal fit our budget; we make our budget fit snow and ice removal.''

Highs on Thursday and Friday are forecast to reach and exceed the freezing mark, but forecasters said another round of winter precipitation could reach the state by early Friday.

Dry weather and partly cloudy skies could make parts of the state seem downright balmy as temperatures reach the 40s and 50s.
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