Deep freeze: Winter storm impacts Shawnee, state

Shawnee News-Star staff
Traffic on Kickapoo was slow Sunday afternoon, as snow packed the roads and temperatures hovered in the single digits.

A winter storm impacted Shawnee and the entire state Sunday and into Monday, with even more snow still expected to fall in the area overnight and into Tuesday, as bitterly cold temperatures will continue for days.

As dangerous conditions persist, The Salvation Army Shelter at 200 E. Ninth in Shawnee has been operating around the clock and following inclement weather protocols of not turning anyone away, the city of Shawnee reports.

With this bitter cold, city utility crews were busy over the weekend repairing several water main breaks across Shawnee, according to the city's Facebook page, with little to no water pressure in some areas while those repairs were made.

Pottawatomie County Emergency Manager Chad Larman said the county received five to six inches of snow Sunday.

"Roads quickly deteriorated with the second wave of snow that came through around 4 p.m. yesterday," Larman said Monday morning.

He said roads were snow-packed and very slick on Monday and the county discouraged any travel unless it was for an emergency situation.

"Pottawatomie County road crews are still in snow removal operations all over the county, and have been working extremely hard to get the roads to where they can be traveled on," Larman said.

He said there were a couple of wrecks reported over the weekend in the county, along with a few reports of vehicles sliding off the roadways or getting stuck in parking lots, but those motorists were quickly assisted by local law enforcement agencies.

According to Shawnee Police Department Cpl. Vivian Lozano, Shawnee police also encouraging people to stay home if possible and avoid the extreme cold and slick roadways.

"If you need to get out, take your time and drive slow," Lozano said. "Have supplies such as blankets, water and snacks in the event your vehicle becomes disabled."

Larman said there had been no reports of vehicle accidents or stranded motorists as of Monday morning.

"Some cities have reported water line breaks. Please be patient with the utility crews as they work in dangerous wind chills to repair the issue," Larman added.

In addition, Larman said there were some power outages reported during the weekend in the McLoud area, but power was restored.

Carla Tollett with SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital - Shawnee said despite the winter storm on Sunday, only two people had been treated at Shawnee's Emergency Room with weather-related injuries by mid-day on Monday, and they hope those numbers remain low throughout this continuing winter event.

Because of the winter storm, the hospital canceled in-person patient visitations on Sunday, but resumed visitation for a few hours on Monday.

Snow and temperatures in the single digits kept many off the roads Sunday afternoon in Shawnee.

With this storm impacting much of the plains, including areas of Texas that normally never see this type of weather, Accuweather reports this storm could truly be a "once in a generation" type event when factoring in the brutally cold conditions.

"Life-threatening cold is an additional risk with this storm, and any motorists who become stranded on snowy or icy roads may find themselves in a dangerous situation. AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures in some areas may be in the single digits or even below zero for 12 hours or more, and that’s a significant concern for anyone unprepared for cold of this magnitude as hypothermia and frostbite can occur very rapidly," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Randy Adkins.

Utility customers asked to conserve power as freezing temps endure

Local utility companies are asking area residents to conserve power where possible as frigid temperatures continue across the state.

OG&E and Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative, Inc. both posted messages on their Facebook pages asking customers to take steps to conserve electricity where possible.

The Southwest Power Pool, which encompasses this area, announced in a press release that “extreme cold weather has created energy deficiencies in the Southwest Power Pool's (SPP) region” and declared a state of emergency alert Level 2, directing member companies to appeal to the public to conserve energy.

“This EEA2 alert will remain in effect until further notice to mitigate the risk of more widespread and longer-lasting outages,” the SPP said.

Some of the steps suggested include:

• Setting thermostats lower than usual, if possible;

• Avoid running appliances that use a lot of energy, such as washers, dryers, and dishwashers;

• Unplug small appliances that aren't being used;

• Turn off lights that are not needed;

• Businesses should minimize use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment;

• Those who are large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.

According to the SPP, Level 2 is the second of three levels, and the third level would be triggered if it becomes necessary to operate reserves below the required minimum or to ask members to implement controlled service interruptions.

“Operating conditions may continue to tighten over the next several days because of this widespread and extreme cold winter weather event, as well as an inadequate supply of natural gas required to power some gas powered electric generation units. SPP is coordinating closely with our members and market participants to respond to high electricity demand and ensure the power grid remains reliable,” SPP said. “Consumers in the SPP region should follow their local utilities’ instructions regarding local outages and energy conservation. We thank the public for their cooperation during this power grid emergency.”

Statute in effect statewide with ongoing State of Emergency

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said the price gouging statute is in effect statewide with the ongoing state of emergency due to the winter weather that continues to impact the state.

The Emergency Price Stabilization Act, also referred to the state price gouging statute, prohibits an increase of more than 10% for the price of goods or services after a declared emergency. The statute automatically triggers after the issuance of a state or federal emergency declaration.

“The majority of Oklahomans typically look to help their neighbors in times of need, including times of emergency like we are experiencing with the frigid weather,” he said. “However, there are some that look to benefit and see opportunity when others are struggling. I want to warn those looking to gouge unexpecting Oklahomans by making them pay exorbitant prices for goods or services that they will face charges if an investigation proves they are in violation of the state’s price stabilization act. While record cold weather continues to impact our state, I encourage Oklahomans to pay attention and not pay inflated prices if they encounter them.”  

For more information or to report a complaint, individuals are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit by phone at (405) 521-2029, or email at consumerprotection@oag.ok.gov.   

City of Shawnee roads

The Shawnee Street Department is operating under its 24-hour winter weather response plan and will continue to do so until the weather subsides.

The city's current plan prioritizes supporting emergency services as well as main arterial routes. The department utilizes a treated salt mixture and currently has an adequate supply of material available.

The street department, augmented with additional public works staff when possible, operates a total of seven pieces of equipment with spreader and plow attachments. As staff continues to monitor and treat priority, secondary, and tertiary routes, residents are encouraged to stay home as much as possible and exercise extreme caution if travel is necessary.

Residential streets were quiet Sunday afternoon, with many staying off the roads due to the winter storm passing through the area.

Oklahoma road conditions

With white-out conditions during heavy snowfall on Sunday, along with frigid temperatures, many accidents were reported on snow-packed roadways across the state, including a multiple vehicle fiery crash involving several tractor-trailer rigs and vehicles on the Turner Turnpike near Luther. That crash shut down the turnpike for nearly 12 hours.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation on Monday reported while the sun was shining in many areas of the state, extremely frigid temperatures and continued snowfall were preventing much change in conditions at this time. In general, ODOT said highways were snow-packed and slick and hazardous in spots across the state, with dangerous and life-threatening situations possible should drivers become stranded in the storm. ODOT said travel remains highly discouraged.

ODOT crews are continuing around-the-clock operations; current highway and interstate conditions can be viewed with an interactive map at https://www.okroads.org and also on the Drive Oklahoma mobile app.

During snowy and icy conditions, if travel is absolutely necessary, motorists are asked 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 patient and allow extra time in reaching destinations.

To check current road conditions in Oklahoma, call ODOT's Road Conditions Hotline at 844-4OK-HWYS (844-465-4997) or go to www.okroads.org or follow ODOT on Twitter @OKDOT

For turnpike information, call the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority at 877-403-7623 or go to www.pikepass.com.

If drivers must travel out of state they are urged to check area road conditions before heading out.

Out-of-State Road Conditions

Arkansas                501-569-2374         www.idrivearkansas.com

Colorado                303-639-1111          www.cotrip.org

Kansas                   866-511-5368         www.Kandrive.org

Missouri                  888-275-6637         www.modot.org

New Mexico            800-432-4269         www.nmroads.com

Texas                      800-452-9292         www.drivetexas.org

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The Southwest Power Pool is calling for customers to conserve energy during extreme low temperatures.