As Meltdown Continues, Businesses And Cities Slow To Recover

Tuesday, December 5th 2006, 5:56 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) Warmer weather is finally starting to thaw parts of the state hardest hit by last week's winter storm, but a full return to normal could take days or weeks for some businesses and cities.

Although forecasters expect much of the snowpack to melt over the next few days due to temperatures in the upper 40s, they are warning that some county roads and side streets could still have up to 6 inches of ice on them.

Also, a hard freeze is expected Thursday night, continuing to make driving conditions treacherous.

``It'll take a week or better of relatively mild conditions until we get rid of all the icy patches,'' said Max Blood, senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Tulsa. ``Do not let up on vigilance.''

The record snowfall was enough for Gov. Brad Henry to lift a burn ban Monday in four north-central Oklahoma counties that were the last to have restrictions on outdoor burning.

But the precipitation could become a two-edged sword: as soon as the snow melts, the dormant grasses will again turn highly flammable, Blood said.

The cost of cleaning up after the storm, which dumped 15 inches of snow and sleet in some parts of the state, was also making a dent in some cities' budgets.

In Tulsa, workers have logged 7,537 overtime hours at a cost of more than $120,000 since the storm began, nearly double the amount set aside for snow removal overtime. The city said Tuesday it would focus efforts on clearing ice-packed residential streets.

Conditions left by the storm caused several accidents, roof cave-ins and school closures five days after it blew into the state.

In Miami, snow accumulation caused a partial roof collapse of a Tracker Marine boat manufacturing plant early Saturday, damaging dozens of boats and leaving about 150 of its 410 employees temporarily out of work.

``We're extremely fortunate it happened at a time no one was in the plant,'' said Joel Alumbaugh, human resources manager at the Miami operation. ``It could've been catastrophic.''

In Vera, a rural community of about 200 in northeastern Oklahoma, the roof of the Owens and Company Fire Department collapsed because of the snow and ice.

With temperatures still dipping well below freezing at night, shelters are scrambling to accommodate the homeless.

The John 3:16 Mission in downtown Tulsa holds a lottery at its front door each night to determine who gets one of 110 beds, and is allowing some people to sleep in its lobby.

``We still are turning away people every single night,'' said the Rev. Steve Whitaker, executive director and senior pastor at the mission. ``This has been one of the worst times we've ever seen.''