Restoring power to rural residents could take weeks

Sunday, February 3rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

It could take weeks to restore electricity to residents in many rural areas slammed by last week's winter storm, officials said Sunday.

More than 101,000 Oklahomans were without power, said Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Civil Emergency Management.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric, the state's largest electric utility, reported more than 49,000 of its customers were still without power Sunday.

The Oklahoma Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives reported about 26,000 of its customers were without power. More than 11,000 of the cooperative's poles were down across the state.

Those without power included about 3,500 in Binger, 2,000 in Stillwater, 9,200 in Kingfisher, 3,000 in Cordell and about 2,000 near Blackwell, the cooperative reported.

Ooten said it could be weeks before electricity is fully restored.

``Everything that can possibly be done is being done, the goal being just as soon as humanely possible,'' she said.

Ooten said emergency declarations from President Bush and Gov. Frank Keating will speed up recovery efforts.

The federal declaration means the state and local governments in 28 counties can apply for federal funds to pay for debris removal and emergency services related to the storm.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma National Guard was delivering generators to shelters and towns without power.

The Federal Water Reserve released 30,000 gallons of water for Oklahoma communities. The state Department of Transportation delivered the water to Beckham, Blaine, Canadian, Grady, Kay, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Logan, Washita and Woodward counties, officials said.

The Red Cross and Salvation Army continued to operate shelters across the state where residents could seek warmth and food.

Several schools and businesses in western and northern Oklahoma planned to remain closed for at least a few more days.

Southwestern Oklahoma State University campuses in Fayre and Weatherford will be closed at least until Wednesday because the school has no electricity, said Brian Adler, director of public information.

``The whole city of Weatherford has no power,'' Adler said Sunday. ``It's no fun. It looks like a tornado. I don't think there's a tree here in Weatherford that didn't get some damage.''

Hennessey Town Clerk June Streck said power is not expected to be restored for many residents until at least the middle of the week.

``We're hoping for a minimum amount of power by late Tuesday,'' she said. ``But that is a big maybe.''

Clark said Hennessey's rural residents can expect to be without power for about three or four weeks.

Watonga Assistant Fire Chief Verlin Bills said some parts of the city might get power later this week.