Turner, Will Rogers and Cimarron Turnpikes Reopened

Friday, December 1st 2006, 7:41 am
By: News On 6

Commuters will be able to make their way home on the Cimarron, Will Rogers, and Turner Turnpikes Friday evening. But driving on those roads was not an option earlier in the day. News on 6 reporter Chris Wright has more on some historic road closings.

This is certainly not something you see every day on the Turner Turnpike, not a car in sight for miles. The Turner remained that way much of Friday morning, until its eastbound lanes were opened around 8:30 AM. Travelers wishing to head west, after waiting for hours while the OHP barricaded the turnpike entrance, were finally allowed to get out of town shortly before noon.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol also shut down the Will Rogers Turnpike to the Missouri State Line, and the Cimarron was closed until 5 a.m. Friday morning.

In addition to the record snowfall, there was also another first. For the first time ever, the Will Rogers, Turner, and Cimarron were all closed at the same time. Authorities say the roads were closed because cleanup crews could not keep up with the snowdrifts created by high winds and heavy snowfall.

"Plows couldn't get in there to plow the snow and ice off, so it made it real tough. The snow was coming down real hard, it just so much at one time the guys couldn't get the snow off at one time," said Jack Damrill with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

So for several hours, Oklahoma National Guard Humvees were the only vehicles using the state's toll roads. The Guard was deployed to search for stranded motorists.

“They were checking on the vehicles to see if they had any occupants, seeing if they were in fact stranded, and if they were, they helped them get transportation," Damrill said.

The Highway Patrol said it waited for the weather to cooperate before they reopened the highways, and it finally did early Friday afternoon. But it was not all smooth sailing once the turnpikes reopened. Traffic moved slowly and was backed up at tollbooths, several accidents were also reported.

With temperatures expected to dip back down into the teens Friday night, OHP says driving on the turnpikes could become extremely dangerous again.