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Road Conditions Improving

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Road conditions improved across Oklahoma on Thursday as temperatures climbed above freezing, but the number of homes and businesses left without electricity because of a deadly two-day winter storm climbed as well.

Slick spots and isolated patches of ice remained on roadways, bridges, ramps and overpasses, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation reported, but driving was less hazardous as frozen precipitation continued to melt.

Meanwhile, just as utility crews were making progress on restoring power to customers in hard-hit eastern Oklahoma, the overall outage number went up.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission reported 25,986 homes and businesses without electric service, up from just over 20,000 earlier in the day. The number had dwindled to 20,509 by late Thursday, said Michelann Ooten, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

The two-day winter storm coated power lines and trees with up to 1ΒΌ inches of ice, much of which began thawing on Thursday.

Sid Sperry, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, had said warmer conditions would help power restoration efforts, but he also warned that outages might go up.

"It's a double-edged sword," he said. "Anytime the weather warms up above freezing and the ice melts off power lines it causes them to bounce, so you may have a few more outages.

"Another downside is that as the roads begin to thaw, rural roads are not paved so they become difficult to drive through. Warmer temperatures have a negative and positive effect."

Nearly 40,000 Oklahoma customers were without power at the height of the storm late Tuesday.

Temperatures ranging from the upper 30s to middle 50s gave motorists and emergency responders a break. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol worked more than 1,150 weather-related collisions, 200 involving injury.

Three people died in traffic accidents attributed to the storm and nearly 500 injuries were related to falls, slips and sledding accidents, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said.

Four shelters continued to operate in eastern Oklahoma. As many as 107 people stayed at shelters Wednesday night, emergency management officials said.

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