OHP discourages travel during winter storm; road conditions update

OHP
Winter weather in downtown Shawnee.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is encouraging residents to stay home during this winter weather event. Starting on Sunday, OHP is discouraging any travel because of the dangerous conditions that will be caused by the winter storm.

OHP is partnering with the Oklahoma National Guard to have Stranded Motorist Assist Response Teams (SMART) ready to assist stranded motorists if needed. These teams will be placed strategically throughout the interstate system Sunday through Wednesday. We will have teams on I-44, I-40 and I-35.

The teams will consist of 8 to 10 national guardsmen and troopers with three to four  national guard vehicles and one to two troopers. The teams will respond as a convoy to any emergencies. They will have equipment to remove vehicles from roadways but their main goal will be to rescue any stranded motorists and get them to a warm and safe location.

This is a joint effort between the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma National Guard, Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. 

Despite this effort, there is not enough personnel to be in all places across the state at once. Depending on the conditions and the call volume, it could take a team several hours to get to a stranded motorist.

That is why OHP is asking everyone to stay home. If you absolutely have to get out, let others know your planned route and expected arrival time. Check brakes, wipers, fluids and tire pressure. Pack warm clothing, blankets, flashlight, ice scraper, sand or cat litter, jumper cables, non-perishable food and drinking water. Charge your phone before you go and take a charging cord with you.

Allow extra time for your drive. Slow down and avoid distractions. And as always, make sure to buckle up.

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WINTER WEATHER: Highway Conditions Alert 2-14-21 as of 11:15 a.m.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation crews report snow-packed highways with blowing and drifting snow accumulating and impacting visibility statewide. Accumulating snow can be slick and hazardous in spots and travel is highly discouraged across Oklahoma.

Dangerous and life-threatening situations could occur should drivers become stranded in the storm. If travel is absolutely necessary during this extreme weather event, drivers should closely evaluate weather conditions in their areas and take all safety precautions.

Crews continue plowing operations and treating slick spots statewide. Highways across the state are seeing light to moderate snow fall, covering recently plowed areas. Motorists should consider these areas to be slick and hazardous.

Bridges along the length of I-35 are starting to re-freeze and are slick and hazardous. Some interstate locations, particularly the southern I-35 corridor, have only one lane clear for travel. Traffic is slowed along some areas of the US-69 corridor in eastern Oklahoma.

Some areas, such as Anadarko, have less than a half-mile of visibility. Blowing snow with slick and hazardous spots will continue to hamper clearing operations and travel statewide, particularly in northwestern Oklahoma and the Panhandle.

The western portion of the Oklahoma City metro area is starting to see light to moderate snow with new accumulation on highways, while highways and interstates across Oklahoma City are snow covered. Conditions are similar across the Tulsa metro area and its surrounding counties with slick conditions and more snow expected in the area.

Staying off highways during this time of quickly deteriorating conditions is the best way to ensure motorist safety. Crews will need room to operate and those who choose to go out are reminded to give trucks and plows plenty of space to maneuver and leave more room between vehicles to provide more reaction time.

Crews will continue plowing operations until highways are dry and clear, which potentially could be a significant amount of time. 

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.

REMEMBER during snowy and icy conditions, if travel is 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.