City of Shawnee street crews have used 80 tons of salt and 60 tons of sand during this latest winter storm while Pottawatomie County crews have been busy clearing roads in all three districts.
Those efforts, along with the fact that many people stayed home Friday or were taking it slow and cautious if they were driving, may have helped keep police call volumes low Friday in Shawnee as no major accidents or problems were reported.
Shawnee Police Chief Russell Frantz said while call volumes were very low for officers most of Friday, he still discourages travel.
“Even though streets are drivable, secondary roads are snow packed,” the chief said. “We encourage people not to drive unless necessary and then to drive slow and keep plenty of distance between vehicles to allow more time to slow or stop.”
Friday’s early morning wave of wintry precipitation dumped anywhere from 2 to 5 inches of snow in many areas of Pottawatomie County on top of ice accumulations from Thursday. City of Shawnee and City of Tecumseh crews, along with Pottawatomie County road crews and those working this area from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, worked to make roads a little bit safer and easier to maneuver.
Don Lynch, Shawnee’s emergency management director, said Friday that roadways were slushy in some areas and snow packed in others, but added that areas would become icier overnight.
“Roads are passable, but motorists are still being encouraged to use care when driving,” Lynch said, adding that several days of freezing temperatures will continue to impact roads.
Shawnee had three snow plow crews out on city Streets and personnel are working a 24-hour operation, Lynch said, while motor grader and a plow truck have been working the city streets around the Shawnee Twin Lakes.
Pottawatomie County District 1 has had three plows, 4 graders, and one front end loader out working the roads in that district, while there were two plows out in District 2 and five graders and salt truck making rounds in District 3.
Pottawatomie County Undersheriff Travis Palmer said drivers need to remain cautious as roadways will be impacted over the weekend. He also warned that those with 4-wheel drive vehicles also should slow down and not become overconfident.
Tecumseh City Manager Jimmy Stokes said road crews there had all major roadways cleared Friday, although he said drivers needed to be cautious of the secondary roads. As of late Friday, Tecumseh, which operates its own electric service for residents, had no power problems as a result of the storm.
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The Oklahoma Highway Patrol released Friday afternoon that troopers have responded to 106 weather-related collisions across the state since 8 a.m. Thursday, so troopers on Friday continued to urge motorists to avoid travel in the affected areas of the winter storm.
As of late Friday, the OHP also reported two weather-related fatalities: one in Owasso and the other in Muskogee. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 116 storm related injuries had been reported by area hospitals since the storm began, including 48 falls. There were no immediate reports of any major injuries at the St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital emergency room.
Because of the storm, a State of Emergency for all 77 Oklahoma counties remains in place. On Thursday, Governor Mary Fallin issued the declaration due to the winter storm. The Executive Order allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and preparedness. It is also a first step toward seeking federal assistance should it be necessary.
And while many are out enjoying the snow, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Marine Enforcement Section wants to remind everyone to keep off the ice. Troopers said even though there may be a layer of ice on our ponds and lakes, ice in Oklahoma does not get thick enough to support the weight of people to play or fish on the ice.
“Ice in Oklahoma is dangerous because areas near the edges of ponds, lakes and shallow pools may appear to be thick enough to support your weight,” the patrol reported, adding the ice thickness decreases so falling through the ice could be fatal.
The weather forecast from the National Weather Service is expected to be unusually cold in the coming days:
Friday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 4. Wind chill values as low as -8. North northeast wind around 9 mph.
Saturday: Increasing clouds, with a high near 22. Wind chill values as low as -9. East northeast wind around 8 mph.
Saturday night: A chance of snow, freezing drizzle, and sleet. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 16. East wind around 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40 percent.
Sunday: A chance of freezing drizzle before noon. Partly sunny, with a high near 24. East southeast wind around 7 mph.
Sunday night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 16.
Monday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 22.
Page 3 of 3 - Monday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 12.
Tuesday:Sunny, with a high near 28.
With a frigid forecast, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reports that prolonged exposure to the cold can cause frostbite, hypothermia, or in extreme cases, death. Infants and the elderly are most susceptible to extreme cold. Frostbite occurs when the skin becomes cold enough to actually freeze. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the nose are symptoms of frostbite.
Hypothermia (low body temperature) can occur during longer periods of exposure when the body temperature drops below 95 F. A person will become disoriented, confused, and shiver uncontrollably, eventually leading to drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. In severe cases, death is possible. The following tips can help decrease the risk of cold exposure:
· Wear layered clothing outdoors for better protection from the cold. Wear a cap to prevent rapid heat loss from an uncovered head. Cover exposed skin to prevent frostbite.
· While indoors, try to keep at least one room heated to 70 F. This is especially important for the elderly and small children to prevent hypothermia.
· Sleep warm with extra blankets, a warm cap, socks and layered clothing.
· Avoid fatigue and exhaustion during cold weather. Overexertion, such as shoveling snow or pushing a car, can strain your heart.
· Carry extra clothing, blankets and high energy snacks, such as cereal or candy bars in your car for protection if car stalls. Keep the gas tank near full to prevent icing. Don't travel alone.
· Check daily on elderly friends, relatives and neighbors who live alone.
· The elderly and very young should stay indoors as much as possible. Offer to shop for elderly friends and relatives. Just like in the summer with heat, it takes some time to get acclimated to cold weather.
To check current road conditions, call the Department of Public Safety's ROAD CONDITIONS HOTLINE at 405-425-2385 or visit http://www.dps.state.ok.us/cgi-bin/weathermap.cgi