10 Years Later: Remembering The 2007 Oklahoma Ice Storm
TULSA, Oklahoma - This month marks the 10th anniversary of a weather incident no one in northeast Oklahoma wants to remember, yet no one who lived through it will ever forget.
It was the ice storm of 2007, an event that brought most of the northeast Oklahoma to a standstill for at least a week.
The storm began when freezing rain started moving into the state on the night of December 8, 2007. It was a Saturday. The freezing rain fell until the following Monday, coating trees, power lines and everything else with as much as three inches of ice.
The result was catastrophic: more than 200,000 homes lost power, many for at least a week, some for almost a month.
The National Weather Service says a high-pressure system centered over the northern plains drove sub-freezing temperatures into Oklahoma, as a strong upper-level system moved into the southwest United States. The NWS says that allowed warm, moist air to ride up over the sub-freezing air near the ground. When the rain started, it fell through that sub-freezing air and froze to almost everything it touched.
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Utilities in Oklahoma got help from repair crews from around the region, working long hours to get the power back on while city and county crews were joined by citizens worked to clear away the debris.
PSO said more than 5,000 out-of-state workers joined at least 500 of its own employees for the monumental task.
Sid Sperry, Director of Public Relations for the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, said the storm brought about three major changes.
First, Oklahoma Emergency Management and FEMA officials were able to agree on an emergency policy change that allowed for meter loops and secondary service wire drops (not normally supplied by the utility) to be installed by local, licensed electricians in disaster impacted areas. This meant service to a home or small business could be restored more quickly on the consumer’s side of the meter, thus allowing utilities to concentrate their emergency restoration crews on repairs to major distribution and high voltage transmission lines. This policy was set in motion by OEM Director, Albert Ashwood, with the assistance of FEMA Region VI officials in Denton, TX.
Second, some utilities moved more aggressively to install underground, direct-bury power cables in more densely populated parts of their respective service areas. Rather than have overhead power lines in the alleys of newer housing additions, some entire housing additions are now completely installed with underground wire. This is extremely difficult to do in rural areas, however, because of the difficulty installing direct bury cable over long distances and often impassable terrain.
Third, utility “Mutual Aid” programs were enhanced when agreements were reached with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to allow emergency repair and restoration crews and equipment to traverse toll roads free of charge and without weight and measure restrictions for a period of up to 30 days. This means that Mutual Aid and Contract Repair crews can often be “pre-staged” ahead of a potentially devastating ice storm, thus allowing for faster response times and reduced Outage durations, especially to residential customers.
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