TULSA, OK -- With heavy snow and blizzard like conditions on the way, Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry has declared a State of Emergency for 50 counties in the state.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials shut down Interstate 40 in the Texas Panhandle to the Oklahoma state line due to heavy snow. ODOT and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol have announced the closure of a number of other roads.
Road Closures [1:15 p.m.]
"Ice and snow resulting from this winter storm poses serious challenges to everything from roads to power lines, and so it is critical that we be prepared for the worst," Gov. Henry said.
The executive order allows state agencies to make emergency purchases and acquisitions needed to expedite the delivery of resources to local jurisdictions.
Counties in eastern Oklahoma included in the executive order are Craig, Creek, Delaware, Mayes, Nowata, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Rogers, Tulsa, Wagoner and Washington.
The governor says he is in close contact with state emergency management officials and if need be, dispatch the Oklahoma National Guard to areas hit hard by the storm.
"I urge all Oklahomans to use common sense and caution during this inclement weather," he said. "This winter storm has the potential to be a serious threat to lives and property, and so it is vital that Oklahomans stay warm and off the roads as much as possible."
Alan Crone's Weather Discussion
Morning temperatures in the upper 40s and lower 50s will remain steady before turning colder by late afternoon. Rain shower activity will be possible later today before changing to snow Saturday near or northwest of I-44. Accumulating snow is possible from Tulsa northward. A major late season snow storm is underway across northwestern OK where 10 to 15 inches of snow will be possible.
The warm front remains south of the Tulsa area. A few storms will still be possible of producing large hail and gusty winds across far southeastern Ok later today. A few storms near Tulsa may produce small hail later today. A slight risk of severe storms will continue across southeastern OK this afternoon and tonight.
Snow is already developing across far northwestern OK this morning and will continue to spread southeast as colder air filters into the state. Rain will change to sleet and then snow near the OKC area northward to Enid by 4pm to 7pm this evening. Rain will continue near Tulsa and points northward tonight before having a chance to transition into sleet and then snow by Saturday morning as the major upper level system swings over the state. The current track and strength of the system would result in a swath of 2 to 4 inch snowfall near northern Tulsa county. Areas from Stillwater to Osage county to Washington County may receive 4 to 8 inches of snow. A change in the track of the upper level system will result in a change in snowfall projections. A track further south would increase the snowfall accumulations. If the system tracks north snowfall accumulation near Tulsa will be less. Currently, the confidence for significant accumulating snow in northwestern and north central Ok remains a 10 on a scale of 1 representing no confidence and 10 representing the highest level of confidence. The confidence of measurable snowfall in the range of 4 to 8 inches in the Stillwater to Osage county to Washington county zone also remains fairly high and will be represented by the confidence level of 8. The confidence of 1 to 4 inches of snow near the Tulsa county area remains near 5 on a level of 1 to 10. Areas of southern OK and eastern sections of the state may see rain changing to sleet or a snow mixture, but current projections do not support significant accumulating snowfall in the corridor of the southeastern third of the state. This also could change if the upper level system tracks much further south than currently projected.
The upper level system contains extremely cold air aloft which will translate from the column of air aloft to the ground resulting in temperatures remaining in the 30s Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning readings will be in the upper 20s or lower 30s with some fog developing over the snowpack. Areas that do receive accumulating snow will remain on the cold side Sunday with highs in the upper 40s or lower 50s, but I have continued to be somewhat optimistic with a high in the mid 50s.
Another strong system will move over the state Monday but very little moisture will be available for thunderstorms. We'll keep a slight mention of isolated storms across extreme eastern OK or western Arkansas Monday afternoon.
Additional storm chances will continue by the second half of the week as another strong system approaches the state.
As this major snow storm unfolds across portions of northwestern Ok, southwestern Kansas, western Ok, and north central OK, travel will be hazardous. Snow drifts across the western third of the state may exceed 1 to 2 feet with north winds at 20 to 30 mph. Near blizzard like conditions will be possible soon across the northwestern third of the state roughly north of I-40 and west of Highway 81. Travel will be discouraged across this portion of the state.
Travel issues will become possible by early to mid morning Saturday from Tulsa northward into southern Kansas. I must continue to stress a change in the track of the upper level system will change the snowfall forecast. Updates will follow later today and tonight.