Winter storm causes wrecks, closes schools

Wednesday, November 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A storm dumped several inches of snow on Oklahoma Wednesday, causing dozens of traffic accidents, including one that killed a Texas woman.

The National Weather Service predicted the state's first major storm of the season would leave a half-foot of snow in many locations by evening. Many schools closed, non-essential state employees were told to go home two hours early and churches called off evening services.

A Slaton, Texas, woman was killed when the vehicle she was riding in slid off Interstate 40 in southwestern Oklahoma late Tuesday, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.

About a dozen crashes happened Wednesday morning in Oklahoma City because of black ice on the roadways, said Lt. Chris West. About 50 occurred in the metro area Tuesday afternoon and evening.

``There's a lot of people slipping and sliding all over the place,'' West said Wednesday.

Criston Sells, a carhop for Coit's Root-Beer Drive In in Oklahoma City, wore two jackets and a hooded sweat shirt Wednesday to try to stay warm as she brought burgers and hot dogs to customers.

``That wind just goes right through me,'' she said. ``I've drank lots of hot chocolate.''

Kevin Brown, a meteorologist with the weather service in Norman, said snowfall would taper off by mid-evening in western and central Oklahoma. Southeastern Oklahoma could miss out on the snow and get ice instead.

That area was hard hit by ice storms in December.

In Lawton, street crews applied a sand and salt mixture to bridges, overpasses and major intersections, Streets Superintendent David Tracey said.

In Cordell, where crews were still cleaning up from an October tornado, snow drifts covered the roads.

``Right now, we're using a lot of heavy equipment and there are still a lot of things we can do while staying warm,'' said City Manager Bob Lambert. ``But if it continues to snow, and we have to clean up streets and clear away tree limbs, that's going to slow us down.''

Oklahoma residents, who enjoyed 60- and 70-degree weather last weekend, were scrambling this week to buy coats, gloves, shovels and sleds. Some also were checking into snow tires.

``We're getting some calls,'' said Darrell Preston, a salesperson at Mastercraft tire center in Moore. ``But people are staying home. They're being smart.''

Homeless shelters and agencies that give away warm clothes and food were busier than usual Tuesday and Wednesday.

Liese Canfield, assistant director of the Hope Center in Edmond, said many families were asking for coats for their children. The center is running out of coats and warm clothes, she said.

More than 500 people sought warmth at the Day Center for the Homeless in Tulsa. About 100 people slept in the agency's shelter Tuesday night, up from the normal 75 people, said Executive Director Sandra Holden.

Holden urged people to call police if they see someone sleeping outside during the storm.

``That way the police can take them to a shelter,'' she said.

The storm caused only minor delays at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City because maintenance crews had to de-ice planes and plow runways. Two flights, one by a small plane headed to Dallas, were canceled, said airport spokeswoman Karen Carney.

Tulsa International Airport, which had about 1 inch of snow, also was running smoothly.

``Most of it's melted because the ground's still warm,'' said Brent Kitchen, airport director. ``Our runway temperature is 33 degrees so it's melting.''