Winter storm aid OK'd, relief work continues

Vicky O. Misa
The Shawnee News-Star
City of Shawnee crews work to fix a water main break during frigid conditions.

Central Oklahoma may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as winter storms have left the area, though it could be a slick and slow return to normal.

On Thursday morning FEMA announced federal emergency aid has been made available to Oklahoma to supplement state, tribal and local response efforts in areas affected by the recent winter storms, beginning Feb. 8 and continuing.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt declared a disaster emergency in the state the end of last week and Shawnee Mayor Ed Bolt proclaimed a state of emergency Tuesday.

Meanwhile, water main breaks and bursting pipes continue to keep crews and residents hard at work as temperatures have taken their time to nudge back up the thermometer.

But up they are going.

According to the National Weather Service, on Friday most of Oklahoma could reach up to 32 degrees and beyond, which would begin the long-awaited thawing process in the next week. By next Wednesday the forecast indicates near 60-degree temps.

For the next several evenings, though, temperatures will dip back down, causing refreezing overnight and leaving roads more hazardous.

Posts on the city's Facebook page have been keeping residents up-to-date on the water main break situation, which is constantly changing.

A post from Wednesday night shows the City of Shawnee appreciates patience in the community as utility crews continue to work 24 hours a day to restore water and water pressure across the city.

Utility crews had successfully repaired three major water line breaks, but were continuing to work on the remaining eight overnight. Crews expected to complete five additional repairs, including a main transmission line that feeds the water towers.

“By (Thursday) morning, we expect water pressure throughout most of the City to be closer to normal levels,” the post reads.

During repairs, residents may see fire hydrants or other valves across the community open with running water to relieve water pressure for the crews repairing breaks. This practice allows utility crews to repair mains without turning off water to residents and businesses.

“In addition, during the winter months the average water demand for our water plant is typically about 3 million gallons per day,” the post reads. “Currently, the demand continues to exceed 7 million gallons per day.” In general, the increase is caused by additional water flow from main breaks and the extra water used by customers running their faucets to keep them from freezing.

“Due to continued demand, we ask the public to continue water conservation efforts when safe to do so,” the post states.

Crews remain dedicated and will continue to work around the clock until all repairs are safely completed.

Also, on another front, Shawnee Public works crews continue in efforts to clear roadways. For a map of the Snow Routes around Shawnee, view at http://www.shawneeok.org/SnowRoutes.jpg.

Central Disposal announced trash routes would begin again Thursday, after days of closure.

“Monday through Wednesday routes will resume next week,” Central Disposal's Facebook post reads. “We understand that you may have excess trash next week and are prepared to pick up additional bagged items.”

No Recycle routes will be running this week, and the Main Office is still closed. The Shawnee Transfer Station also will remain closed until Monday, but recycle routes will resume as scheduled beginning Monday.

For story ideas, questions or concerns, reporter Vicky O. Misa can be reached at vicky.misa@news-star.com.