Ice storm causes power outages and deadly accidents

Wednesday, January 30th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A band of freezing rain moving across Oklahoma coated trees and roadways with ice early Wednesday, causing two fatal crashes and several power outages.

A motorist was killed and two others were injured in a crash at the intersection of Interstate 40 and State Highway 81 in El Reno, said an Oklahoma Highway Patrol dispatcher. The three motorists were struck by a truck after getting out of their vehicles because a sport utility vehicle had rolled over on the Interstate, authorities said.

Troopers are withholding further information until they notify the victims' relatives.

In Oklahoma City, a 30-year-old man was killed after being struck by a car traveling on a wet road, authorities said.

Tree limbs coated with ice cracked and fell on power lines in Hydro, Kingfisher and Tonkawa, said state Emergency Management Department spokeswoman Michelann Ooten.

Ooten said the city of Hydro was without water for at least four hours Wednesday morning because its water treatment plant is powered by electricity. She said the department was prepared to bring water to the town if necessary.

Kingfisher and Tonkawa residents also were without power Wednesday morning, she said.

Many schools throughout the state were closed Wednesday.

Roads were slick and hazardous in much of the Panhandle, said a dispatcher with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol in Guymon.

``People are starting to have some problems, but we haven't had anything drastic yet,'' said the dispatcher, who would not give her name.

Oklahoma City street maintenance crews planned to report at midnight Tuesday to begin spreading salt on city streets. Since the last significant storm, the maintenance department acquired 15 salt spreaders as well as six new trucks and four refurbished snow plows.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Panhandle and a winter storm watch for a section of northwestern Oklahoma. By early Wednesday, the freezing line was from Stillwater to Oklahoma City to Chickasha, meteorologist Dave Floyd said.

``All the precipitation northwest of there is falling as freezing rain, anything south is falling as normal rain,'' he said.

``Kind of the saving grace right now is that the ground is still pretty warm. The main roadways are still OK, but the bridges and overpasses are icing up.''

Trees and power lines were beginning to ice over. South of the freezing line, rainfall in the range of two- to three-tenths of an inch had fallen in some areas.

Cold air was to continue moving slowly south into Oklahoma overnight, with temperatures in the mid-20s across northern sections and lower 30s in central areas. Meanwhile, a storm system moving in from the southwestern United States will have an increasing influence across Oklahoma through Wednesday night.

Floyd said he expects precipitation to fall on and off Wednesday, with rain in southern Oklahoma and freezing rain in the northwestern half of the state.

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture lifted the burn ban for all counties except Texas County because of the rainfall. Cimarron County was the only one to remain under a ``red flag fire alert'' early Wednesday.