Major storm cancels flights, knocks out power

A city worker removes snow from streets and parking spaces Thursday along Broadway in downtown Edmond, where traffic and activity were at a minimum. More snow was forecast through the afternoon and evening. (Photo by Kathryn McNutt)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Airlines canceled flights, government agencies reduced services and schools closed campuses in the wake of the winter storm, but democracy didn’t take a holiday.

Polling sites were open for early voting Thursday in 65 counties across Oklahoma ahead of the Feb. 8 elections. Early voting continues from 8 am to 6 pm Friday.

“It doesn’t affect us,” Oklahoma County Election Board Secretary Doug Sanderson said. “It’s never an option. We are always open for early voting and always open on election day.”

Sanderson said two voters had come to the office and cast ballots by 10 am

Oklahoma’s commissioner of public safety told state agencies they could temporarily reduce nonessential services Thursday due to inclement weather.

Meanwhile, essential workers went to work around the clock to treat roadways, restore electric power and respond to emergencies.

Oklahoma City street crews are working 12-shifts around the clock to clear snow routes. Street Superintendent Raymond Melton said crews completed all 20 routes once and began a second round of plowing Thursday.

Spokeswoman Brenda Perry with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation said progress is slow on clearing highways and turnpike because of the continuing snowfall. “Improvements are going to be slow going,” she said.

OG&E Energy Corp. spokeswoman Christi Woodworth said at 2:30 pm Thursday that about 3,700 customers were without power across the service area, including a large number in Piedmont.

OG&E crews restored power to the single largest outage – which affected about 6,000 customers – overnight into Thursday. “We continue to see outages related to galloping lines (caused by ice, snow and wind) and our team is working around the clock to minimize customer impact,” she said.

The Associated Press reported millions of Americans were in the path of the storm that spread rain, freezing rain and heavy snow across the country on Thursday, knocking out power to more than 100,000 homes and businesses, mostly in Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas.

The flight-tracking service FlightAware.com showed more than 1,000 flights were canceled Thursday alone at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and more than 300 were canceled at nearby Dallas Love Field.

By early afternoon, airlines had canceled dozens of departures and arrivals at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.

Airport spokeswoman Stacey Hamm said Terminal Drive was snow-packed Thursday afternoon and crews were working to clear some parking lots. The priority was clearing the main runways and taxiways, she said.

Oklahoma City police stopped responding to non-injury vehicle accidents shortly after the storm arrived Wednesday afternoon, telling drivers to exchange information and take photos for insurance purposes.

At the same time, the Emergency Medical Services Authority reported a big uptick in motor vehicle accidents in the Oklahoma City area. The numbers have declined, spokesman Adam Paluka said Thursday afternoon. EMSA transported two people to the hospital with cold exposure, he said.

The National Weather Service in Norman forecast called for additional snow accumulation Thursday evening in central Oklahoma and dangerous wind chills below zero overnight into Friday, including minus 7 degrees in Oklahoma City.

All three winter overflow shelter locations – Homeless Alliance, City Rescue and Salvation Army – will have beds open at least through the weekend with expanded capacity.

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