Weather forecasts and conditions in the area may have been watched closer than news about the upcoming election, at least in the tri-state area over the weekend.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) issued a winter weather advisory Sunday evening stating crews in the panhandle were reporting precipitation and slick bridges. The update Monday morning said crews were sanding and salting slick bridges and overpasses and some slick spots on highways throughout western Oklahoma.
“Only in Oklahoma would Mother Nature be dumb enough to end a drought with an ice storm,” State Climatologist Gary McManus said. “And we're gonna have a near blizzard in the Panhandle, enough sleet to fill a cast iron skillet in the northwest, up to an inch of freezing rain across southwest through central Oklahoma, and then 4-5 inches of rain down to the southeast.”
According to McManus, there is all this moisture and way too much cold weather to work with.
“Enough rain already to make improvements in the drought in some places,” McManus said. “This is after some locations have gone nearly 50 days without significant, in some cases any, moisture.”
The key to the area’s winter storm experience depends on an elusive freezing line over the next 24 to 36 hours.
“Therefore, the forecast is rife with uncertainty,” McManus said. “We have a Winter Storm Warning for the Panhandle, Winter Storm Watch in the Northwest.”
According to McManus, the area is under an Ice Storm Warning until 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
“Periods of significant icing through at least Wednesday morning,” McManus warned. “Ice accumulations up to one-half inch will be common, with some locations possibly receiving upwards of one inch. There will also be accumulations of sleet.”
The area should expect power outages and widespread tree damage due to the ice, according to McManus.
“We're gonna have to hope and pray that the temperature rises above freezing,” McManus said. “Luckily temperatures are forecast to rise back to more Octoberish levels Wednesday into the weekend, then we can start the wackiness all over again.”
McManus cautioned that travel could become very dangerous.
ODOT reminds motorists during snowy and icy conditions to:
• Stay about 200 feet behind road clearing equipment; crews need room to maneuver and can engage plowing or spreading materials without notice.
• Allow extra space between vehicles to provide adequate distance for braking.
• Be aware of "black ice," which looks wet on the roadway but is a thin layer of ice.
• Be patient, plan trips ahead and allow extra time in reaching destinations.
If you are traveling on interstates, the department said I-40 was slick from Weatherford to the Texas State line and I-35 was slick in spots.
According to ODOT, 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.
In addition to travel issues, the winter weather caused a number of cancellations Monday.
School was out pretty much everywhere in Northwest Oklahoma.
Woodward officials announced Monday afternoon that school would also be out Tuesday.
Northwestern and Southwestern also cancelled classes at their campuses on Monday.
In addition, the baked potato dinner scheduled on Tuesday at the Woodward Senior Citizens Center was canceled. The event, a fundraiser for the United Fund, has been rescheduled for Nov. 17.