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Winter storm takes aim at Oklahoma with ice, snow

NORMAN — With the last patches of the Christmas Eve blizzard not that long departed, weather officials are bracing for another potentially brutal winter storm.

"This one is very different than the Christmas Eve blizzard,” said Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Norman forecast office. "For one thing we’re going to have more of a mixture of precipitation. That storm went from sleet to snow pretty quickly.

"This has the potential to be a significant storm. We’ve had a few in recent years.”

Smith stresses potential. "There are so many variables involved in it,” he said.

"In winter storms, a 1-degree difference in temperature can make a huge difference in what kind of precipitation we see.

"It also makes it more difficult when we’re not only dealing with the surface temperature but also the temperature hundreds or thousands of feet up.”

The Norman office Tuesday was predicting hazardous weather to begin early Thursday and continue through early Friday. Freezing rain is expected to begin to accumulate on power lines and elevated surfaces during the day Thursday.

The most likely area for significant ice accumulations is south of Stillwater to El Reno to Hobart to Altus and Quanah, Texas. Some areas may see a quarter of an inch to three-quarters of an inch of ice as well as sleet and snow. The heaviest ice accumulations are expected near a line from Okemah to Fayetteville, Ark.

More sleet and snow accumulation is possible from west central to north central areas with six to 12 inches of snow expected.

Winds of 25 mph to 35 mph could bring additional stress to power lines.

Forecasters in the Amarillo, Texas, office are calling for 4 to 6 inches of snow in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

"There will be uncertainties until Thursday morning when we see precipitation changing,” said Smith in Norman. "So don’t look at the forecast today and think you know what’s going to happen, because with winter storms it will change. Continue to monitor it.”

Know it: Winter Survival
Ceremony postponed

The annual Evening of Excellence, presented by the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine Alumni Association, has been postponed because of weather concerns. Originally set for Thursday, the event now is planned for Feb. 5 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, starting with a cocktail reception at 6:30 p.m. Dr. Russell Postier will receive the distinguished medical service award, and Michael Samis will be recognized with the distinguished community service award. The distinguished Oklahoma institution award will be presented to the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. Reservations are $250. For information, call 271-2353.

Cold safety

When temperatures are below 40 degrees, Oklahomans should pay attention to more than snow forecasts and slippery streets to stay safe, according to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Ongoing research at the Health Sciences Center has shown that when the temperature is below 40, the body responds by constricting blood vessels to conserve heat in as few as 10 minutes after going outside.

This cold temperature change not only raises blood pressure in healthy men and women, but can pose a serious risk of heart attack or stroke for patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease. Fatal heart attacks and stroke peak during the winter months.

"Your body senses cold temperatures and sends a message to your brain, which responds by shrinking blood vessels,” said blood pressure expert Zhongjie Sun at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. "Exposing any part of your body to cold temperatures is enough to send your blood pressure up. It’s very difficult to completely avoid the effects of cold weather, but you should minimize exposure.”

What you can do:

→Stay indoors.

→Wear layers (a single layer, no matter how thick, doesn’t work).

→Wear a hat and gloves.

→Do not make sudden strong exertions.

→Avoid high wind, snow and rain.

→Pay particular attention to children and elderly, since they have more difficulty regulating body temperature.

Symptoms to watch for: