'It's taxing our resources': Volume of calls doubles for Ardmore firefighters amid winter weather
Southern Oklahomans woke up to several more inches of snow Wednesday morning— the second round of precipitation in what has been an unusual blast of freezing temperatures for the area.
The weather has resulted in a busy week for first responders who have been working to help stranded motorists and those facing unexpected problems caused by the weather.
Nearly five inches of snow blanketed the Ardmore area on Monday, Feb. 15, according to the Carter County Emergency Management Office. Cold temperatures kept the snow around through Wednesday morning, and Director Paul Tucker said they estimated an additional five inches accumulated overnight.
“I think the last time we saw snow this deep was back in 2011, and temperature wise it’s been quite a long time since it’s been this cold,” Tucker said.
Ardmore Fire Marshal Tim Lee said the amount of calls the department has received has nearly doubled this week. “We’ve run a lot of wrecks, a lot of welfare checks and we’re running a lot of busted pipes in buildings right now,” Lee said.
Sprinkler systems have been breaking and broken pipes have been flooding buildings— consuming a large amount of time for firefighters. “It’s really keeping our guys busy right now,” Lee said. “It’s taxing our resources right now having to make all of the calls assisting the buildings.”
Water shut-off and service calls have mainly been coming from businesses. Many businesses have pipes that run through the attic and when temperatures drop below freezing for several days those pipes will often freeze over and eventually bust.
“This stops our sprinkler systems so we have no fire protection in those buildings— that’s a large concern for us,” Lee said. Busted pipes and sprinkler systems also leave behind a great deal of structural damage to the buildings from flooding.
In one of many recent calls, Lee said firefighters were advised that water was running out the front door of a vacant Ardmore restaurant located off of 12th Avenue Northwest.
“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any weather like this in my life,” Lee said. “The busted pipes are keeping us really busy right now, but everybody seems to be doing good and I guess trying to stay safe.”
Lee said the fire department has been lucky to have not seen many weather-related fires this week. Many of the fires they have worked have also been related to frozen pipes.
“We’ve responded to a couple of calls where people were heating their pipes, or trying to thaw their pipes out in their house and got a little small fire started," Lee said. “But we haven’t had any large increase in fires, thank goodness. We’ve been real surprised.”
The winter weather has also caused problems on the roads. Lee said they’ve responded to numerous wrecks and welfare checks throughout the week, with many motorists getting stranded in the deep snow.
Tucker said the county has been working to clear the roads since the first storm hit the area, and were out again Wednesday morning clearing the roads from the second round of snow.
"The other day the major roads were quite deep,” Tucker said. “Now they got a little bit heavier, wetter snow this time around so it’s going to be a little bit more to take care of.”
While the snow is leaving the area, temperatures aren't expected above freezing until this weekend. Tucker said road conditions may continue to be slick Thursday morning and individuals should continue to exercise caution.
“Roads still got some snow on them and some areas could be packed,” Tucker said. “If you have to get out keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Slow down and take your time.”