Much Of Oklahoma Remains In Dark After Ice Storm

Wednesday, December 12th 2007, 9:02 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Utility companies made some progress in restoring power across Oklahoma as forecasters said a brief break from the freezing rain and sleet likely would be followed by another round of winter weather.

State emergency management officials said early Wednesday that just under 498,000 homes and business remained without power in what is the largest outage in Oklahoma history. The problems weren't limited to Oklahoma, either, after a massive storm dropped sleet and freezing rain across much of the nation's midsection.

About 350,000 customers in Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois also were without power.

Officials said it could be a week to 10 days before power is fully restored.

The system has been blamed for at least 24 deaths, including 15 in Oklahoma, since it developed last weekend.

Light precipitation was falling from central to southwestern Oklahoma Wednesday morning, but was expected to end by afternoon and the state could see some sunshine and temperatures in the 40s Thursday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Curl in Norman.

But another system currently off the West Coast was expected to produce snow in Oklahoma by Friday, Curl said.

"Yeah, it looks that way, the system is going to kind of deepen over the southern Rockies, as that occurs we'll start to see some precipitation moving into western Oklahoma, a rain and snow mix," Curl said.

"Then precipitation should overspread the area pretty quickly Friday afternoon, turning to snow."

Curl said central Oklahoma could receive two to four inches of snow while northern sections of the state may get three to six inches.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said people are being counted on to look after each other.

"At the end of the day, this comes down to the strength of your people. ... People who have electricity ought to be sharing it with people who don't."

While some people are at one of the 29 shelters open across the state, others have decided the best thing to do is to wait at home for the power to come back on. Charita Miller, who lives in southwest Oklahoma City, said power went off at her home at 5 a.m. Monday.

"We've got kerosene lamps and a fireplace," Miller said. "We're OK. We can't watch TV. Oh well, you can't have everything. It's just me and my husband. My husband said `there's food in the freezer."'

Sonya Kendrick decided to leave her home and take advantage of an American Red Cross shelter in the basement of Trinity International Baptist Church in northwest Oklahoma City. She said she hoped she could return home by week's end.

"When I got in here (Monday), I was totally distraught. I was like `Why me? Why me of all people?' I look at it this way too: I'm not the only one," said Kendrick, 43. "There's other people here that I got to know in less than two days, literally. All of them have been through the same thing, and everybody here just understands everybody.

"I feel more at ease now. I want to go back home, but right now this is the best place not just for me but for the kids."

The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's disaster relief teams stationed three feeding units -- one in Oklahoma City and two in Tulsa -- to provide prepared meals to many of the state's shelters.

Sam Porter, the convention's disaster relief director, said 2,500 Southern Baptist volunteers were helping with the effort. Included in that number are chain saw crews, who are helping clean and clear driveways, homes, cars and walkways blocked by fallen trees, he said.

"This poor lady we went to had tears in her eyes because her 90-year-old oak tree was just ravaged," said Tom Moffett, who used a chain saw to cut branches that fell on his neighbors homes and driveways in Norman.

"This could change the face of Norman, because these trees are part of the charm of the city."

Some fallen trees have crashed into live power lines, sparking fires. Oklahoma City and Tulsa firefighters have responded to more 100 fires each since the storm began.

President Bush declared a federal emergency in Oklahoma on Tuesday, ordering government aid to supplement state and local efforts. It's the eighth time in 2007 that the state has received a federal disaster declaration.