Oklahomans Have Proven Method For Predicting Ice Storm Severity

Wednesday, February 20th 2013, 10:34 pm
By: Tess Maune

Two Oklahomans have come up with a way to predict the severity of an ice storm and how much damage it could bring.

The system was created to give power companies a little extra time to prepare for big storms.

According to it, things look promising for the Tulsa area, but the farther east you go, the worse off you might be.

It's pretty to look at, but when the snow mixes with ice, it's a force to be reckoned with.

"Since 2000, we've had nine ice storms that have been declared major disasters, that caused major disasters," said Sid Sperry, of the Oklahoma Association for Electric Cooperatives.

If Sperry has seen one devastating ice storm, he's seen one too many.

"Any utility company will tell you their greatest concerns are ice storms, because of the large footprint area and the amount of devastation that an ice storm can cause," Sperry said.

Because of that, Sperry has spent the past 20 years researching ice storms.

He and Tulsa National Weather Service Chief Meteorologist Steve Piltz came up with the Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index in 2006.

The index ranks storms on a scale of one to five, using forecasts, wind speeds and an algorithm to predict how much damage will be left behind from accumulating ice.

"So at the end of the day, it's about saving lives. The quicker you can get power restored, the better, and that's what it's all about," Sperry said.

Sperry said the system has proven itself time and time again. He predicts the Tulsa metro area is safe from any major damage this time, but counties bordering northwest Arkansas may not fare as well.

"Right now, that's registering a level three on our index, which means there could be power outages that could last anywhere from one to four days," Sperry said.

Keep in mind the index works alongside the forecast, which means it could change at any time.