Winter weather wreaks havoc in Southern Oklahoma, more to come

Sierra Rains
The Daily Ardmoreite
Two crashed vehicles sit on an icy Prairie Valley Road Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, with an Oklahoma Highway Patrol vehicle immediately behind. Icy roads led to multiple crashes across southern Oklahoma.

Ice caused havoc on Southern Oklahoma roads Tuesday, with first responders working numerous calls involving crashes and vehicles that had slid into ditches. 

The danger has subsided for now, but may arise again in the coming days. National Weather Service Meteorologist Bruce Thoren said the cold conditions are expected to linger into next week, with another round of wintery precipitation and possibly even snow this weekend. 

Ardmore Fire Department Fire Marshall Tim Lee said firefighters responded to approximately six wrecks Tuesday and numerous other welfare checks on cars that were off in ditches. In Love County, the emergency management office said first responders were dispatched to over a dozen accidents. 

“Up on the interstate was particularly bad,” Lee said. “We had one semi turned over on its side up there and another one was jackknifed, and we had cars off in ditches. It was a busy morning for the guys.” No major injuries or fatalities were reported in any of the crashes in the Ardmore area. 

Lee said they were much more prepared on Wednesday morning. Sanding crews reportedly got out ahead of the second round of ice on many roads where it could have become dangerous, and as of that morning Lee said they hadn’t responded to any more accidents. 

“That’s really helped a lot. I think yesterday it was such as surprise,” Lee said on Wednesday morning. “When I woke up I didn’t expect to walk out and the roads be iced over. I think it just caught us by surprise yesterday.” 

Individuals will need to continue to be cautious with a slight chance for wintery precipitation, including ice and snow, on Saturday. Thoren said the chance for snow will increase Sunday evening into Monday. Snowfall totals are uncertain at this time, but could be dangerous for those out of the roads.

“It’s really too hard to tell right now but it could be enough to be impactful,” Thoren said. “Enough to have to plow and treat the roads.”

Lee said individuals should stay home if they can, but for those who do have to travel there are a few tips to keep in mind. Individuals should give themselves plenty of time to stop, put plenty of distance in-between their vehicle and others, and drive slow, with extra caution. “Don’t ever outdrive your comfort zone,” Lee said. 

Overnight lows could be in the single digits Sunday into Monday, with the wind chill ranging from zero to negative 10. “For Southern Oklahoma, especially, it’s bitter cold,” Thoren said. “I would definitely, if people are traveling, have something to stay warm in case you have some kind of car problem, or get stranded outside for whatever reason.”

Individuals should limit the amount of time they spend outside, as dangerously low temperatures and wind chill can cause frostbite or hypothermia. Warning signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, slurred speech and drowsiness. Individuals experiencing these symptoms should be given immediate medical attention.

Colder temperatures also create an enhanced risk for residential fires, Lee said. Ardmore firefighters responded to a fire caused by a space heater on Monday, and many more fires typically result from heating devices used in the winter. 

“As the temperatures drop, people try to find more creative ways to heat their homes,” Lee said. Space heaters become dangerous when used improperly. Lee said individuals should keep all objects three feet away from space heaters and plug them directly into the wall, rather than using an extension cord. 

“The extension cord is always a big concern because they’ll overheat and start fires,” Lee said. “Do not leave them unattended, that’s always the big thing with them. People go to sleep with them on and they are not made or designed for that.”

Individuals should also ensure their smoke detectors are working. In the fire on Monday, a smoke detector quickly alerted the homeowners, giving them enough time to get out safely. 

“We had no injuries in the fire because the smoke detectors alerted them early,” Lee said. All smoke detectors should be equipped with a test button. If the button does not make a sound when pushed, it’s time for the batteries to be replaced. A slow chirping sound also indicates that the battery is low and needs to be replaced. 

Thoren said it could be some time before the Southern Oklahoma area sees warmer temperatures again, and individuals should continue to take precautions and be aware of possible winter weather. “We have several more days to go before it looks like it might warm up, so just stay patient,” Thoren said.