Quick-Moving Storm Brings Snow To Oklahoma

Saturday, December 22nd 2007, 2:08 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Snow and ice blanketed much of Oklahoma on Saturday and wreaked havoc with holiday shopping plans after a quick-moving winter storm descended upon the state on the first day of winter.

Snow driven by gusty winds and subfreezing temperatures prompted authorities to issue travel advisories for highways across the state, including roads in and around Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

Law enforcement authorities reported dozens of accidents on ice-slickened roadways and authorities urged motorists to be cautious as they traveled to holiday parties or to stores and malls to wrap up their holiday shopping.

The National Weather Service said winter officially began shortly after midnight Saturday.

``It's really been very, very busy,'' said Capt. Chris West of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. ``We've had so many crashes today.''

West said many Oklahomans may have put off holiday shopping until the final weekend of the season because of a devastating ice storm two weeks earlier that knocked out power to about 600,000 homes and businesses, caused $200 million in damage and was blamed for 29 deaths.

``We don't want to see anybody else hurt,'' West said.

Retailers said many shoppers stayed away from stores on Saturday.

``It's been half of what I expected today,'' said Wes Johnson, manager of Bachrach Clothing at Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City. ``I think weather had a lot to do with it.''

``We're definitely slower than what we normally are,'' said Curtis Tucker, sales manager at Mathis Brothers Furniture in Oklahoma City.

Tucker said the store normally records $650,000 in sales on the Saturday before Christmas Day but had done only about $350,000 by Saturday evening.

``It definitely hasn't helped us, let's put it that way,'' he said.

Tucker said the furniture store attracts shoppers from across the state, including areas hard hit by the storm.

``When you get weather like this, they're not coming,'' he said. ``It kills us.''

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety reported slick roads in more than one dozen counties in western, northwestern and north-central Oklahoma.

The highway patrol said roadways in Cimarron, Texas and Beaver counties in the Oklahoma Panhandle as well as Ellis County in northwestern Oklahoma were slick in spots. Roads in Harper and Woodward counties were described as extremely slick and hazardous.

State troopers said U.S. Highway 64 between Alva and Buffalo in northwestern Oklahoma was shut down because of whiteout conditions and that authorities were at the scene of a six-car collision on the highway involving an ambulance that was transporting from the scene of another accident.

In addition, a portion of U.S. 270 was closed between Woodward and Seiling due to road conditions and accidents. The eastbound lanes of Interstate 40 were closed for several hours in eastern Oklahoma County following a weather-related accident, officials said.

U.S. Highway 412 near Mooreland also was closed after up to 20 cars had slid off the road or been involved in collisions, authorities said.

No weather delays were reported at either Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City or Tulsa International Airport.

Winter storm warnings for much of the state were scheduled to expire overnight as the storm system pushes out of the state to the east. Sunday's forecast called for sunny and dry conditions with temperatures ranging from the mid 30s to the lower 50s.