Winter storm blamed for traffic deaths


Friday, December 24th 2004, 5:49 am
By: News On 6


Oklahoma was locked in frigid cold Thursday, one day after a winter storm iced portions of the state and contributed to at least eight traffic deaths.

Temperatures dipped to 8 in Ponca City in northern Oklahoma, 6 in Gage near the Oklahoma Panhandle, 15 in Lawton, 11 in Tulsa and 14 in Oklahoma City.

It was forecast to get even colder before the start of a warming trend on Christmas.

``We're going to have another reinforcing shot of cold air today and probably have the coldest temperatures in most places tonight that they've seen this winter,'' National Weather Service forecaster Erin Maxwell said Thursday. ``We're predicting temperatures below zero in northern sections of Oklahoma and temperatures in single-digits in central Oklahoma overnight tonight and early Friday morning.''

Scattered snow flurries were expected in western Oklahoma Thursday, but the snow was not expected to accumulate.

Maxwell said an arctic air mass, combined with an upper level system, resulted in snowfall across most of the state on Wednesday.

``We had anywhere from a trace in central sections all the way down to three and four inches in Atoka and Bryan counties (in southeast Oklahoma),'' Maxwell said.

The snow made roads slick and hazardous, contributing to at least seven fatal accidents and dozens of others with minor to moderate injuries, according to Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports.

A 33-year-old Chickasha man was discovered Thursday morning after his pickup ran off Interstate 44 in Grady County Wednesday night and vaulted over a creek before coming to stop, the patrol reported.

The driver, Ronnie Estepp was pronounced dead at the scene.

An eastbound car went out of control on U.S. 70 at 10:15 a.m. 7 miles west of Madill and slid into oncoming traffic, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. Eldon Matthews said. The driver, 48-year-old Sherman Roberts of Ardmore, was killed.

The driver of the westbound car that was struck in the accident was not seriously injured.

Also in southern Oklahoma, a Kiowa woman was killed when the vehicle in which she was riding collided with a pickup truck on U.S. 75 near Calvin, troopers said.

Misty Hall, 32, was pinned about 1 1/2 hours and died at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center. The driver of that vehicle, 33-year-old Cindy Price of Durant, died Wednesday night, the patrol reported Thursday.

A Coppell, Texas, man died when his vehicle slid on the snow and ice and collided with a tractor-trailer on U.S. 69 in Savanna, the patrol said.

Patrick G. Reinhert, 23, suffered massive injuries and died at the scene of the accident, troopers said.

And in McClain County, a Newcastle woman was killed when her sport utility vehicle skidded on the ice along State Highway 37. Newcastle Police Chief Larry Hodges said Kimberly Hibdon, 47, was thrown from her vehicle after it rolled at least twice.

Near McAlester, a San Antonio man was killed when his pickup truck slid on an icy U.S. 69, the patrol reported.

Timothy Davis, 24, apparently lost control of the vehicle, which struck a center barrier and hit a tree.

Also near McAlester, an 86-year-old Oklahoma City woman suffered massive injuries and died in a crash early Thursday, troopers said.

Ida C. Pryor was riding in a northbound car that went out of control on U.S. 75 and collided with a southbound vehicle, the patrol said.

The driver of the car and occupants of the other vehicle were injured.

Highway Patrol Lt. Chris Roan said troopers in southern Oklahoma worked ``as many crashes as I can remember in 17 years'' during a period from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Most of the roads across the state were clear on Thursday, but OHP Lt. Brandon Kopepasah said some slick spots remained in southern and eastern sections of the state.

``The only problems we're having are in the south,'' Kopepasah said. ``Some roads there are slick and hazardous, but it should be improving throughout the day.''

A warming trend is expected to begin Saturday, with daytime highs climbing into the 40s.

Temperatures are expected to reach into the 40s and 50s on Sunday, with overnight lows in the 20s.

Monday is to be partly cloudy in the west and mostly clear in the east, with highs in the 50s and overnight lows in the 20s to around 30.