Tough driving

Traffic makes its way gingerly through the snow and sleet near the intersection of Williams and Downs as sleet continued to fall on Tuesday morning in Woodward. Traffic was still being discouraged throughout most of western Oklahoma. (Photo by Johnny McMahan)

Winter weather continues as Oklahoma has seen the earliest fall ice storm warning ever issued by the National Weather Service, according to Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer.

“Near record lows were seen early Tuesday morning across northwest Oklahoma, while wave 2 of 3 entered the area,” Lehenbauer said. “Although experiencing a mixture of freezing rain, sleet and snow already, with wave 3 we expect an additional ¼ inch of icing across the area in the early morning hours of Wednesday, and a little more possible in far southern Woodward County.”

The ice storm warning runs until 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been cautioning drivers to use extreme caution, if travel is necessary. Bridges especially tend to develop slick conditions and highways remain slick, hazardous and snow packed.

“If it primarily falls as sleet, we'll see roads worsen but won't deal with as many power outages,” Lehenbauer said. “If freezing rain falls, then our biggest issue will be outages.”

ODOT crews continue round-the-clock salt/sand and plowing operations throughout much of the state due to additional icy precipitation and freezing temperatures.

“A temperature difference of only 1 degree several hundred feet up could be the difference between sleet and freezing rain, so it is nearly impossible to predict what we will get with specificity,” Lehenbauer explained. “Compounding the issue will be that leaves are still on the trees, which will make tree damage more likely if we do get freezing rain, and will lead to more power outages from branches breaking off and hitting lines.”

According to Lehenbauer, all emergency power generators are being tested to ensure auxiliary power is available if power outages that affect water service occur.

“We have also coordinated plans with the American Red Cross in the instance that widespread outages require public shelters to be opened,” Lehenbauer added.

While conditions are improving, drivers should remain alert, especially at bridges, as conditions can quickly change, according to ODOT.

“We will see temperatures again get above freezing by late-morning on Wednesday,” Lehenbauer encouraged. “We do expect rain all day Wednesday, tapering off early Thursday, with sunny and nice conditions this weekend with temperatures in the upper-50's to lower-60's.”

The Commissioner of Public Safety, as authorized by the Governor, has announced that due to inclement weather all state agencies may temporarily reduce non-essential services during this time for counties impacted.

If travel is necessary, drivers should closely follow the forecast and check current road conditions on the interactive travel map at www.okroads.org or through the Drive Oklahoma smart phone app.

Other areas of Oklahoma were hit with significant freezing rain and ice throughout Tuesday.

Schools throughout the area were closed on Tuesday as was the Woodward County Courthouse.

Late Tuesday afternoon, local school officials announced that Woodward would not have school on Wednesday.

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