Storm System Knocks Out Power, Snarls Traffic In Oklahoma

Friday, March 30th 2007, 6:09 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Another wave of storms pushed into Oklahoma on Friday, dumping more rain into swollen creeks and rivers and knocking out power to more than 8,000 people in a state battered by recent tornadoes.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. reported about 8,600 customers without power -- including about 6,400 in Ada in east-central Oklahoma. Lightning was blamed for knocking out power for nearly 1,600 customers in western Oklahoma City, said OG&E spokesman Brian Alford.

Slow-moving thunderstorms dropped more than three inches of rain in areas as they moved north into the state from Texas. Flash flood warnings also were in effect for 10 counties in southern and central Oklahoma.

Capt. Chris West said the Oklahoma Highway Patrol had sent its dive team to the site of an accident where a car plunged into the Illinois River, and there were numerous other weather-related wrecks.

"It's definitely played havoc on our traffic," West said.

No deaths had been reported, West said.

The middle third of Oklahoma received the highest rainfall, said National Weather Service meteorologist Forrest Mitchell in Norman. From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Waurika in Jefferson County in southern Oklahoma received 3.87 inches of rain, while a site in north-central Oklahoma County received more than three inches. About 3.5 inches was recorded near Chickasha, Mitchell said.

The most significant problem was proving to be flash flooding, he said.

"That's been the main weather feature today," Mitchell said. "We've had a lot of rain. We certainly need the moisture, but some areas have received so much rain today and that has led to localized flash flooding."

A tornado warning issued for Cleveland and McClain counties expired without a tornado touching down, Mitchell said. Another warning was issued later for Seminole County east-central Oklahoma.

A tornado watch was issued for dozens of counties in eastern Oklahoma and Kansas until 3 a.m. Saturday.

Mitchell said preliminary reports of downed power poles had been received from far northwest Oklahoma City.

Tornadoes killed two people this week in the Oklahoma Panhandle and one each in Texas and Colorado. Another batch of storms knocked out electricity for 12,000 OG&E customers Thursday, but more than half regained power within an hour and nearly all had it back on before yet another round of storms rolled in.

"Just like last night, we are not expecting outages to last very long," Alford said.

Earlier Friday, high water prompted authorities to shut down an eight-mile stretch of State Highway 149 east of Laverne in far northeast Oklahoma and a portion of State Highway 20 east of Skiatook in northeast Oklahoma. U.S. Highway 283 was closed in Harper County after a tractor-trailer blocked both lanes of traffic, the highway patrol said.

The severe weather resulted from an upper level pressure system that moved into Oklahoma and collided with a stationary cold mass lingering over the region, Mitchell said.

Similar conditions spawned several tornadoes across the state Wednesday and Thursday, including a twister that killed Vance and Barbra Woodbury of Elmwood when it blew apart their home in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Three other tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma on Thursday, including one that touched down in far northwest Oklahoma City, damaging homes, blowing cars off the road and injuring at least five people.

A 44-year-old man and his 40-year-old wife were in critical condition after the tornado tossed their travel trailer, but their conditions continued to improve on Friday, said Emergency Medical Services Authority spokeswoman Lara O'Leary.