Winter storm slows in Oklahoma, gets replaced by rain
The ice storm fizzled out for Oklahoma on Sunday, but the wet weather persisted.
Warnings were set to expire in the northwestern part of the state Sunday evening and overnight Monday. Ice storm and winter storm warnings expired Saturday night for the Oklahoma City area, which went mostly unscathed throughout the duration of the storm.
"All the rain and ice that did accumulate either did melt or will melt, and temperatures will continue to rise overnight," Bruce Thoren, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Norman, said.
"There's some places just out to our west that have received at least a quarter inch. There wasn't a lot of wind with it. We got lucky this time, at least in parts of the metro," Thoren said.
"We had the temperatures, we just didn't have the amount of rain we thought would fall. You've got to have both to have an ice storm," he said.
State roads and Interstates were clear of ice by 4 p.m., the Oklahoma Department of Transportation reported.
But thousands of people were still out of power statewide as electric lines and tree limbs were downed by ice.
Woodward County Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer said Sunday that the county is likely the hardest hit by the storm, and thousands of residents remain without electricity.
Combined numbers from Oklahoma Gas and Electric and Northwestern Electric Cooperative showed about 3,600 customers in Woodward County, nearly 1,900 in Harper County and about 1,400 in Ellis County had no electricity. Electric co-ops across the state reported more than 9,000 outages.
Lehenbauer said as some power is restored, the ice that's bent tree limbs begins to melt and the limbs snap back into place, sometimes knocking down additional power lines.
By sundown Sunday, more than 900 were still out of power in Longdale, and 825 customers were affected in Woodward, according to the SystemWatch page on the internet.
One fatal wreck was reported by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol early Saturday along Interstate 40 in Custer County that claimed Gideon Gachohi, 45, of Oklahoma City, but another Oklahoman was killed in an icy crash in Kansas.
Thay Torres-Ocacio, 35, of Guymon, died after the sport utility vehicle in which he was riding went out of control on an overpass and eventually overturned several times in southwestern Kansas on Saturday night, the Kansas Highway Patrol reported.
Rain continued throughout Sunday, with central Oklahoma expected to see about an inch from 6 p.m. into early Monday. A slight chance of severe weather was forecast by the weather service in southern Oklahoma.
The most rain fell in Butler over the weekend, which recorded more than two inches, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet. Sites at Beaver, Elk City, Erick, Jay, May Ranch, Miami, Tahlequah and Vinita reported more than an inch and a half this weekend, according to the Mesonet.
Monday is expected to be partly sunny with highs in the mid-50s in central Oklahoma. Mostly sunny and partly cloudy skies are predicted throughout the week in Oklahoma City, with highs into the 60s during the day and into the 40s at night, the weather service said.
Sleet and drizzle glazed swathes of the central U.S. on Sunday, extending icy weather that some meteorologists acknowledged fell short of dire forecasts.
Much of the region remained under an ice storm warning on the eve of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as stretches continued getting pelted by rain, often in areas where temperatures hovered around freezing.
A National Weather Service ice storm warning for the Kansas City and St. Louis areas expired Sunday afternoon as temperatures exceeded freezing. An identical warning remained in effect until Monday morning to the north, as the storm pressed into Nebraska and Iowa.
The freeze made roads harrowing.
In Kansas near Kansas City, two troopers escaped injury when their vehicles were struck while working a crash along northbound Interstate 635.
And in central Nebraska, authorities believe icy conditions contributed to a fiery crash involving two tractor-trailers shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday on Interstate 80, forcing a three-hour closure of 15 miles of Interstate 80. There were no injuries. South of Kansas City, the latest round of storms dumped three-quarters of an inch of precipitation overnight, resulting in about one-quarter of an inch of ice.
Jared Leighton, a National Weather Service meteorologist near Kansas City, Missouri, said Sunday that while the breadth of the ice accumulations fell short of expectations, "that shouldn't distract from the impact of the storm."
"The amounts were never really the story; the impacts were," Leighton said. "The roads are still a mess, and the Highway Patrol is having their vehicles run into."
Becky Allmeroth, a state maintenance engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said ice is "the most difficult storm to fight."
"We are keeping up with the changing conditions, but it is a continual battle," she said of the department's round-the-clock scrambling to treat the glazed roads. "The precipitation is coming in waves, and we have to apply more salt."
Many residents had prepared for the storms by stocking up on bread, milk and other necessities and by buying flashlights and generators to have on hand in case power gets knocked out.
CONTRIBUTING: The Associated Press