Winter Storm Death Toll Rises To Five | KGOU
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Winter Storm Death Toll Rises To Five

Dec 28, 2015

Thousands of residents in Oklahoma remain without power after a winter storm battered the state Sunday night and early Monday morning, leading to at least three deaths and injuring more than 100.

Updated December 29, 1:49 p.m.

The death toll from the winter storm and flooding rose to five on Tuesday, according to the state medical examiner. The Oklahoman reports a 38-year old woman from Oklahoma City and a 66-year old woman from Yukon have both died. Neither woman was identified.

Updated December 29, 6:50 a.m.

At least three people have died in eastern Oklahoma due to this weekend’s winter storm. The drowning deaths were attributed to heavy rainfall that caused flooding.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says 54-year-old Melissa Phillips drowned near Bixby after her vehicle ran off the roadway and was submerged in high water. Phillips was reported missing Sunday, and was found less than a mile from the home she’d just left on Mingo Road near 201st Street. The vehicle was found Monday afternoon.

36-year-old Darrell Sennett disappeared Sunday while trying to drive his pickup truck across a creek in Pittsburg County. His roommate Chris Martin was rescued from a tree while trying to get to the truck. Sennett’s body was recovered Monday along the creek bank.

Rescuers found the body of 22-year-old Chase Marland yesterday after his boat capsized while duck hunting in Kaw Lake. His companion, 29-year-old Craig Strickland, is still missing.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says 104 storm-related injuries were treated at Oklahoma hospitals. 58 of those were falls, and 30 were related to transportation. There were also nine reports of carbon monoxide poisoning, three cuts, and four classified as "other."

More wintry precipitation could be on the way. The National Weather Service says up to two inches of additional snow could fall north and west of Interstate 44 Tuesday evening.

Credit Norman Forecast Office / National Weather Service

Updated 4:19 p.m.

Monday afternoon Gov. Mary Fallin extended a state of emergency for all 77 counties in Oklahoma.

Fallin originally issued the declaration Nov. 29, and it would've expired Tuesday. The 30-day extension allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief, and is the first step toward seeking federal aid if it's necessary.

Read Gov. Fallin's Executive Order

Fallin also issued a separate order that suspends weight restrictions in Oklahoma's motor vehicle code for large, oversized vehicles involved with bringing relief supplies to the state.  That's especially important for power companies bringing in poles to replace those damaged or destroyed by severe weather.

About 36,000 Oklahoma Gas & Electric customers are without power, primarily in northern and central Oklahoma. Public Service Company of Oklahoma's 37,000 outages are concentrated in the southwestern portion of the state.

Updated 1:07 p.m.

State emergency officials are working with Gov. Mary Fallin to extend a state of emergency for all 77 counties issued after a winter storm pounded Oklahoma in late November. Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain says that 30-day declaration expires Tuesday.

"Because of the needs of the power companies to bring in additional crews, additional power poles, some of those large vehicles that they bring in from outside of the state, the state of emergency is kind of the first step in helping to deal with those situations,” Cain said.

So far no deaths have been attributed to this storm, and Cain said the state Department of Health has reported 56 injuries associated with this storm.

"We've seen mostly falls and transportation-related injuries, but also some carbon-monoxide poisoning-type injuries,” Cain said.

Flooding is a major concern in eastern Oklahoma, where some areas have received nearly a foot of rain in the past week.

The National Weather Service says the Illinois River has reached record levels in some areas. Forecasters say the river was at nearly 28 feet and rising in Tahlequah early Monday morning. Flood stage for the river is 11 feet.

The Mesonet station in Tahlequah recorded nearly 12 inches of rain in the weekend storms.

2015 has already been the wettest year on record for Oklahoma, and it may not let up early next year. State Climatologist Gary McManus told Public Radio Tulsa the above-average rainfall is due to the Pacific atmospheric disturbance known as El Niño:

"The main impacts from El Niño typically start later in December and then last through February, March," said State Climatologist Gary McManus. "So, possibly, the wettest part of this El Niño is still to come."

Snow has been in short supply so far, and that will likely continue.

"It does look like we will be warmer than normal and wetter than normal for much of this cool season," McManus said. "With the majority of the United States much above normal in temperature, there's just really no way for that Arctic air to seep down here."

El Niño events happen when surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are unusually warm near the equator. 

Original Post

More than 55,000 Oklahoma Gas and Electric customers in central and northwest Oklahoma are without power Monday morning as snow, sleet, and strong winds continue to batter the state.

Several Oklahoma emergency managers say hospitals are reporting that just under a dozen people have suffered storm-related injuries, although the nature of the injuries wasn't known.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management has activated the state Emergency Operations Center, and the 30-day state of emergency Gov. Mary Fallin declared after the November 29 series of storms remains in effect for all 77 counties.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation continues to discourage travel due to slick and hazardous roadways, as well as downed power lines that have caused some road closures.

Crews continue to treat roads, bridges, and overpasses with salt and sand, and drivers are encouraged to use caution, and allow extra travel time and distance between vehicles.

“After sunrise, we expect a full changeover to snow, with the best chances across central and northern-central Oklahoma, with lingering chances across western Oklahoma and western North Texas,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Kurtz.

Credit Norman Forecast Office / National Weather Service

A Winter Storm Warming remains in effect until noon, and the snow and sleet is expected to quickly lift north by Monday afternoon. Kurtz says sleet accumulation of up to two inches is possible.

“Winds will remain elevated, with blowing snow remaining a concern,” Kurtz said.

Non-essential employees with state agencies don't have to report to work until 10 a.m. Most area colleges, universities, and public schools are already closed due to the winter holiday, and many other businesses and services have delayed openings today as well.

Will Rogers World Airport is open, but so far more than two dozen flights have been delayed or canceled.

Maintenance workers are clearing runways and taxiways, as well as sidewalks and parking lots. Even though the wintry weather should conclude by midday Monday, it will take time for flights to get back on schedule, especially as storms move east and impact major transportation hubs like Chicago.

The Salvation Army has opened shelters at NW 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Oklahoma City, and Hayes Street just west of Porter Avenue across the street from Norman Regional Hospital.

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