Arctic blast closes schools, brings dangerous wind chills

Tuesday, December 6th 2005, 9:50 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A dusty layer of snow from Oklahoma's first major winter storm of the season closed schools and sent cars sliding, but it was the brutally cold wind that really put the sting in Thursday's Arctic blast.

Wind chills plunged to as low as minus-17 degrees in Guymon on the sweeping plains of the Panhandle, and left Oklahoma City's urban dwellers bundling up for a morning drive in minus-12 degrees.

The shock of the cold at 7 a.m. Thursday took away Woods County Sheriff dispatcher Jennifer Barnett's breath as she opened the door for a quick assessment of Alva's temperatures.

"Our thermometer says zero, and the wind is blowing," she said, shutting the door. "Ooh, I don't really want to do that again."

The National Weather Service in Tulsa reported snowfall amounts ranging from 5 inches in the Osage County town of Hominy to about 2 inches in Tulsa. Schools across northeastern Oklahoma closed, including the state's largest district in Tulsa, because of treacherous roads.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol in Tulsa reported several accidents and cars in ditches after Thursday's morning commute on slick roads, but a dispatcher said none resulted in serious injury.

Not including the wind chill, temperatures Thursday morning ranged from minus-6 in Guymon to 7 above in Tulsa. Wind chill is the combination of cold temperatures and wind.

Even in multiple layers and a heavy duty parka, Guymon Highway Patrol Commander Marvin Noyes was feeling the wind's bite every time he stopped to help motorists stalled by freezing fuel lines Thursday morning.

"It's almost like a burning sensation," said Noyes, who later stopped at Guymon Standard Supply to buy some insulated coveralls because "you never know how long you might have to be out in it."

He faced his own repair emergency at home -- frozen water pipes.

"We left the water dripping, and we had the electric heaters (on the pipes)," Noyes said, "and it still froze up."

At the grain elevator in the Texas County town of Hooker, operations manager Jerry Diederich and his workers were dressed in three layers of clothes to cut the cold.

"If you keep yourself working, it's not bad," he said. "But if I see them shiver a little bit, we stop and get a drink of coffee."

Temperatures were forecast to remain cold across the state Thursday, with the warmest spots reaching close to freezing in the far southeast and south central parts of Oklahoma, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Teague.

"The sun will be out so that will help a little bit," Teague said.

Wind chills were expected to range from minus-10 degrees to around zero, he said. At that cold, "your skin starts to freeze fairly quickly. You start to run the risk of frost bite and hypothermia."

A warming trend is expected to begin Friday, with highs expected to reach into the 20s in the northwest and the upper 40s in the southeast.

If you do intend to travel Thursday, here is a list of numbers you'll want to keep handy.

Oklahoma 1-405-425-2385
Kansas 1-800-585-7623
Missouri 1-800-222-6400
Arkansas 1-800-245-1672
Texas: 1-800-452-9292