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Winter Weather Begins Creeping Into Oklahoma

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Winter weather in northern Oklahoma on Thursday morning caused only limited problems, but forecasters warned that a system approaching the state could bring with it snow, ice and freezing rain by the weekend.

The National Weather Service has issued a special weather statement for most of western and central Oklahoma, predicting that freezing rain will begin in northwestern Oklahoma early Saturday night and continue spreading across the state through the first part of next week.

"What we saw this morning is a preview of what parts of the area will be seeing Sunday through Wednesday, potentially," said Rick Smith, the Norman-based warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service. "The next storm system promises to ... bring a threat of significant winter precipitation."

What kind of precipitation and where it might fall are difficult to pinpoint, Smith said, but "basically just about the whole state will see some impact from this storm system."

Light freezing rain fell in a band from Laverne in Harper County to Ponca City in Kay County on Thursday morning, causing minor traffic difficulties before temperatures rose above freezing. In Enid in Garfield County, authorities worked a half-dozen accidents on bridges that had iced over, Police Sgt. Dustin Albright said. No injuries were reported, he said.

Albright said for a time, Enid police stationed cars with running emergency lights near bridges "to slow people down. People just don't even think."

State Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten said having a few days notice that a potentially significant winter storm is approaching Oklahoma gives both state officials and private citizens an opportunity to prepare.

"I do think Oklahomans are probably better prepared than other places in the nation because of the amount of disasters we routinely see," Ooten said. "I do believe Oklahomans take steps to be prepared, but on the other hand, we do know the time period during which people remember the effects of a disaster is limited.

"We tend to believe, 'We had an ice storm last year, so we won't have one this year.' We're always battling that on a public-education front."

Seven federal disaster declarations have been issued for Oklahoma during 2007, she said.

Ironically, next Tuesday is this year's Winter Weather Preparedness Day -- a statewide initiative planned months ago, Ooten said.

"You never know with Oklahoma weather whether it's going to be 80 degrees on the day you want people to think about winter weather or it's going to be 25 degrees," she said.

Likely, it will be closer to the latter temperature, Smith said.

"It's such a fine line, with a lot of this you don't know exactly what's going to happen until it's happening," he said. "It's very tricky to get those forecasts just right. But we're confident enough there's going to be something happen somewhere as far as winter precipitation."

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph said that on-duty trooper levels won't be any higher than normal, but that some off-duty troopers are on-call if the weather requires increasing the on-duty levels.
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