The chronology of a storm, and the recovery of same, Dec. 28-30

The storm of late December, 2007, is reminicent to some of March, 1957. To most, it is just the price of living in the Plains, and for many, it places government entities under a microscope.

What follows is the chronology of the storm and the county's recovery as reported by Michelann Ooten, of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Managment. I choose to use the situational updates supplied by the ODEM because Ms. Ooten and others had a broader view of the storm and its aftermath, and as a non-citizen, she was able to be more objective. These reports have been edited for space, go to www.oem.ok.gov

-The editor.

Dec. 30

The State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) received the following damage reports related to the winter storm that moved through the Panhandle on Friday and Saturday. Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) staff remains in contact with emergency managers in the affected areas. 

A strong storm system moved slowly across southern New Mexico late Thursday into Friday.  This produced widespread snowfall across parts of the Oklahoma Panhandle. Especially hard hit were Cimarron and Texas counties where upwards of 12 inches of snow fell in some areas. Rain, ice and winds in excess of 55 mph in some areas, also accompanied the weather system. The remainder of Oklahoma received rainfall of 1-2 inches in most areas and a few areas received up to 4 inches.

Power Outages

Heavy power outages are reported in Texhoma, Hooker, Tyrone and Boise City as well as many outlying areas. OEM is working with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) to deliver three state-owned generators to the City of Boise City. The generators will be transported from Enid to Boise City where they will be used to provide power to the city's water treatment plant which is currently without power.

The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) reports about 5,500 Tri-County Electric Cooperative customers are without power due to the winter storm. That figure is down from 7,500 without power earlier today. Initial estimates show between 150 and 200 distribution power poles are on the ground. Some substations have had power restored, but others cannot be back-fed due to transmission interconnection outages being experienced by Southwestern Public Service Company (SPS) in the Texas Panhandle. OAEC has implemented its mutual aid assistance program and seven crews (about 32 personnel) along with their power restoration equipment have arrived at a staging location in Hooker. 

Road Conditions

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) is discouraging travel in Cimarron and Texas counties. Since Friday, OHP has worked four crashes in the Panhandle area. Many roads remain impassible due to 10 to 12 inches of snow and drifting snow.

The following roads are closed:

US-287/385 north from Boise City

SH-325 west of Boise City

US-56/64/412 west of Boise City

US-385 west of Boise City

US-287 southeast of Boise City

 

Shelters and Mass Feeding

A shelter is open at the First Methodist Church in Boise City for residents and stranded motorists. While Guymon has power, a shelter is open at the Guymon Community Center for residents without power in the outlying areas and stranded motorists. The Southern Baptist Men's Disaster Unit out of Hooker is cooking at the Guymon Community Center and will be sending meals to the shelter in Boise City . The Oklahoma County Chapter of the American Red Cross is coordinating the Red Cross response to ensure all displaced residents and travelers have a hot meal and warm place to sleep.

Dec. 31

Power Outages

The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) reports about 5,000 Tri-County Electric Cooperative customers remain without power, including all of Boise City and Keyes.

Road Conditions

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) reports SH-56 from Boise City to Elkhart, US-287 from Boise City south toward Stratford , TX and US-64 from Boise City toward Guymon are all open. Oklahoma crews are still working on US-287 north toward Colorado (US-287 is still closed in Colorado ) and on US-56 from Boise City west toward Clayton , NM (US-56 is still closed in New Mexico ). Several vehicles were reported stranded along US-56 at the New Mexico line after having driven around barricades.

Since Friday, ODOT has rotated several crews around the clock as they worked to clear snow-packed Cimarron Countyroads. Crews clear the entire roadway, beginning with the driving lane, and then the shoulders. Snow is pushed aside and salt is spread. Last night, crews worked to keep US-64 open as a “lifeline.” This morning, six additional road graders were sent to the storm-struck area, making a total of eight graders and five trucks. Personnel are being rotated in shifts with additional assistance coming from ODOT staff from Harper, Ellis, Woodward, Major, Woods and Alfalfa counties.

ODOT officials say they are making headway but the situation won't improve fully until neighboring states are able to clear their roads.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) reports they have worked five accidents in the Panhandle in the last 24 hours.

State Assistance

— ODOT is transporting three 80kw generators from Enid to Boise City . The generators are needed to power the Boise City water treatment plant and other public facilities. Additionally, ODOT is transporting 200 gallons of diesel fuel to Boise City to keep their equipment running since power outages are preventing access to fuel at some Panhandle locations.

— OEM secured 4 port-a-potties and they have now arrived in Boise City . The city's sanitation system is also down due to the power outage.

— This morning OHP led a convoy of vehicles loaded with food, water, blankets and other supplies to Boise City .

— Two OEM area coordinators were deployed to the Panhandle. One will assist officials in Guymon; the other in Boise City.

Shelters and Mass Feeding

Shelters remain open in the following Cimarron and Texas county locations:

In Guymon at the Texas County Activity Center

In Boise City at the First Methodist Church and the Church of Christ

In Tyrone at the Baptist Church

In Hooker at the Texas County Shop

The Southern Baptist Men's Disaster Unit out of Hooker continues to prepare meals at the Texas County Activity Center in Guymon and send still more meals to other shelters in Texas and Cimarron Counties. Yesterday they served more than 900 meals to residents and stranded travelers at the shelters.

LOCAL REPORTS

Cimarron Sheriffs Department reports between 150 and 200 spent last night at the shelters in Boise City.

Jan. 1

Power Outages

The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) reports power has been restored to Boise City, Hardesty, Hooker, Texhoma, Tyrone, and Turpin. Tri-County officials are now estimating at the height of the winter storm more than 20,000 consumers were without power. Original estimates identified about 7,000 without power. Current estimates show about 5,500 to 6,000 Tri-County customers remain without power, with the bulk of those outages being reported in rural areas.

Tri-County officials further estimate that there are at least 200 to 250 distribution poles that have been downed by the recent ice, snow and rain storms. In addition to crews sent by six other electric cooperatives from across Oklahoma, Tri-County has enlisted the help of four contract construction crews. Preliminary estimates show damages to the electric system will exceed $1 to $1.5 million at minimum. Officials have yet to be able to complete damage estimates in Cimarron County because some rural roadways are still closed due to blowing and drifting snow. Substantial progress is expected to be made today and tomorrow in repairing distribution lines throughout the Panhandle, as weather conditions are beginning to improve.

Road Conditions

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) reports winds have died down in the Panhandle and additional roads have opened. SH-56 is now open to Springer, New Mexico despite being slick and hazardous. US-287 north from Boise City remains closed at the request of Colorado transportation officials. In Cimarron County, SH-325 to Kenton is still closed but ODOT is working to clear. ODOT continues to work with eight road graders (“motor patrols”) and 11 snow plow trucks, with staff rotations around the clock.

Jan. 1 addendum

State Assistance

- In order to check on residents in isolated communities and rural areas, the Oklahoma National Guard is sending 13 personnel from the armory in Enid to Cimarron County. OEM and local officials have received numerous calls from individuals in Oklahoma and other states that have been unable to contact loved ones in some areas of the Panhandle. The National Guard personnel will use six Humvees, to assist local officials as they complete welfare checks in Cimarron County.

- OEM, Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) personnel continue to assist with response, recovery efforts in Texas and Cimarron counties.

Jan. 2

Power Outages

Current estimates show about 4,500 Tri-County Electric Cooperative customers remain without power, with the bulk of those outages being reported in the towns of Adams, Optima and Kenton as well as rural Texas and Cimarron county areas. Today power was returned to the towns of Felt and Wheeless as substantial progress was made in repairing distribution lines throughout the area. Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) reports all of the municipalities that regained power last night (Hardesty, Hooker, Tyrone, Turpin, Texhoma and Boise City) are still receiving electricity although these communities have experienced brief outages throughout the day. In addition to crews sent by six other electric cooperatives from across Oklahoma, Tri-County has enlisted the help of four contract construction crews.

Telephone Outages

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission reports Panhandle Telephone Cooperative has 250 customers without telephone service. The telephone system is rotating its generators to 37 different remote switches to keep batteries charged for its back up power. Panhandle anticipates all services will be restored today.

Injuries/Fatalities

None reported at this time.

State Assistance

- Oklahoma National Guard personnel this morning joined local officials in completing welfare checks on residents in isolated communities and rural areas in Cimarron County. Teams traveling in Humvees began their work with sweeps in the Kenton and Wheeless areas. The welfare checks were warranted after OEM and local officials received numerous calls from individuals in Oklahoma and other states that were unable to contact loved ones in some areas of the Panhandle. The 13 National Guard personnel are from the Enid area.

- Additionally, the state has sent an Oklahoma National Guard Chinook helicopter and crew of four to assist with hay drops for stranded cattle in Colorado, which was impacted by the same winter storm that hit the Panhandle. The State of Colorado requested the helicopter and crew under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which is a mutual aid agreement between states. The Guard personnel left from Lexington this morning and are working out of Pueblo, Colorado.

Power Outages

The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) reports about 3,500 Tri-County Electric Cooperative customers remain without power.

Telephone Outages

Phone outage reports continue in the Kenton area.

Jan. 3

Injuries/Fatalities

No fatalities reported. One injury reported. A stranded Cimarron County woman who is a cancer patient in need of medication and treatment was transported from her home to the hospital in Boise City.

State Assistance

Today Gov. Brad Henry will amend his State of Emergency declaration first issued on Dec. 21 to include all of Cimarron and Beaver Counties. The Dec. 21 declaration already declares a State of Emergency in Texas County. The declaration provides a formal mechanism for local governments within Beaver, Texas and Cimarron counties to seek reimbursement for recovery costs through the state's disaster public assistance program.

Oklahoma National Guard personnel continue to assist with welfare checks on residents in isolated communities and rural areas in Cimarron County. Teams of local officials, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Guard personnel are completing the welfare checks after OEM and local officials received numerous calls from individuals in Oklahoma and other states when they were unable to contact loved ones in some areas of the Panhandle. OEM is assisting with coordination efforts from the State EOC and the local command post located in Boise City.

Yesterday, the teams completed sweeps of Kenton and Wheeless areas in far western and northwestern Cimarron County. ODOT opened up Black Mesa Road — a 10-mile stretch from Kenton to the Colorado state line. The team assisted about 20 stranded families despite four feet of snow and drifts topping 20 feet in some areas. In addition to transporting the female cancer patient to Boise City, the Kenton Team assisted a male dialysis patient in need of medication. Additionally, the Kenton Team located a male diabetic patient in need of medication off SH 287 near the Colorado-Oklahoma state line. The medication was air-dropped from an OHP airplane, landing miraculously only 15-feet from his home. Kenton Team members also made entry two miles north into Colorado where they reunited a woman and her daughter with her husband and son. The woman is a nurse in Boise City and was unable to return home after working the late shift Friday night. She hadn't talked to her family since Friday evening. After reuniting her family, the woman assisted the team in locating and completing welfare checks on many neighbors. Today the team will complete welfare checks on six to seven more homes in the Kenton area.

Another team searched the Wheeless area and was able to dig out five families. The last family to be rescued was rationing food between its six children. The team provided medication for one of the children whose medication supply had run out. Today the Wheeless Team will continue to work south of the Wheeless area. Once they cleared snow-packed roadways, team members also assisted residents' whose car batteries wouldn't start. These are just a few of the many heroic stories that have come out of this state, local effort.

In addition to continued work in the Kenton and Wheeless areas, today the teams will make sweeps in the Ranch Road (north and east of Kenton) as well as the Black Mesa State Park areas.

Additionally, an Oklahoma National Guard Chinook helicopter and crew of four continue to assist with hay drops for stranded cattle in Colorado. The State of Colorado requested the helicopter and crew under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which is a mutual aid agreement between states. The Guard personnel are working out of Pueblo, Colorado. Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Food, Forestry and Agriculture are working to finalize a program to assist Oklahoma Panhandle farmers with livestock feeding needs.

Power Outages

The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) reports about 2,500 Tri-County Electric Cooperative customers remain without power.

Jan. 3 addendem

Oklahoma City — In the wake of a devastating snowstorm last week that crippled parts of the Oklahoma Panhandle, Gov. Brad Henry said the state continues to make significant headway bringing relief to the impacted counties.

The Governor today amended a previous State of Emergency declaration to include Cimarron County and Beaver County. The change extends an emergency order that Gov. Henry had issued for Texas County on Dec. 21, 2006.

The declaration makes it easier for local governments to seek reimbursement for recovery costs through the state's public assistance program.

The Governor noted that recovery efforts have involved the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management; National Guard; Department of Transportation; Highway Patrol; and Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry

“Many people in both the public and private sectors have been working tirelessly and around the clock to help the Panhandle recover from a massive storm that dumped about four feet of snowfall,” Gov. Henry said. “There is more work to be done, but I am grateful for the substantial progress that has been made.

Because huge snow drifts are preventing many farmers in the area from being able to get hay to stranded cattle, an incident command team of the Agriculture Department is in the Panhandle to finalize how best to proceed with a hay airdrop. Gov. Henry directed Secretary of Agriculture Terry Peach to personally oversee the work of the incident command team.

There are an estimated 380,000 head of cattle in Cimarron and Texas counties.

The Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association has established a Panhandle Ranch Rescue Fund to help purchase hay and feed for beleaguered farmers and ranchers. People who want to contribute to the fund can send their donation to the following:

Panhandle Ranch Rescue Effort

Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association

2500 Exchange Avenue

Oklahoma City, OK 73108        Public safety also remains a top priority as the Panhandle digs out from under the snow. Since Jan. 1, Oklahoma National Guard personnel have conducted welfare checks on residents who have been without power.

Jan. 4

Oklahoma National Guard personnel continue to assist with welfare checks on residents in isolated communities and rural areas in Cimarron County. Today, teams are concentrating on an area north and northeast of Kenton where four homeowners remain stranded by snow-packed roads. Local officials have been in contact with the residents who are in good condition.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has staff at the Boise City Command Post to assist with any health-related needs. The Medical Reserve Corps has provided an emergency department physician and nurse to assist at Cimarron Memorial Hospital in Boise City. OSDH has also coordinated pharmaceutical deliveries to the hospital. 

Today, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry began airdrops of hay for livestock stranded on Cimarron County ranches. The hay is dropped from a National Guard Chinook helicopter out of Lexington. A crew of seven Guard personnel is assisting with the effort which is stationed out of the Boise City Airport. The hay is needed for an estimated 5,000 head of cattle and other livestock and is from the Felt and Boise City areas. The Chinook helicopter can hold up to five round bales of hay per flight. Oklahoma Agriculture Secretary Terry Peach is overseeing the operation from the Boise City Command Post. Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Herrin is serving as incident commander for the hay drop effort.

A joint preliminary damage assessment team will survey damage in the affected Panhandle areas beginning on Friday. The team will include county and city officials as well as representatives of OEM, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Tri-County Electric Cooperative and the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC). The team will document any damage to public facilities, roads and bridges as well as damage to the electric system.

Another Oklahoma National Guard Chinook helicopter and crew of four continue to assist with hay drops for stranded cattle in Colorado.

Power Outages

OAEC reports about 2,000 Tri-County Electric Cooperative customers remain without power.

Jan. 5

Today, joint preliminary damage assessment teams began to survey damage in the affected Panhandle areas of Texas and Cimarron counties. The teams include county and city officials as well as representatives of OEM, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Panhandle Telephone Cooperative and the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC). The teams will document any damage to public facilities, roads and bridges as well as damage to the electric and phone systems caused by the Dec. 29 snow storm as well as the Dec. 19 ice storm. The teams will continue assessments tomorrow.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has staff at the Boise City Command Post to assist with any health-related needs. The Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps has provided an emergency department physician and nurse to assist at Cimarron Memorial Hospital in Boise City. OSDH has also coordinated pharmaceutical deliveries to the hospital. 

Yesterday, an Oklahoma National Guard Chinook helicopter and crew of four returned to Oklahoma after completing hay drops for stranded cattle in Colorado. The State of Colorado requested the helicopter and crew under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which is a mutual aid agreement between states.

Power Outages

OAEC reports about 1,800 Tri-County Electric Cooperative customers remain without power

Jan. 6

Weather Conditions

A weak storm system moved rapidly across Oklahoma yesterday and early this morning. The system produced light snowfall amounts of one to two inches across Cimarron and Texas counties. The main impact was strong winds of 15 to 25 mph.  Today sunny skies and a high of 38 degrees are forecast for the area. Tonight's low will be in the teens.

State Assistance

 

“Cimarron County Ranch Rescue,” the state's hay relief effort to feed the estimated 8,500 livestock stranded by the winter storm continues. Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) expect to deliver a minimum of 60 bales of hay which will feed about 3,000 cattle, horses, mules and donkeys. Today an additional Oklahoma Army National Guard Chinook helicopter will join the effort. Yesterday's poor weather conditions limited air drops and prevented a second Chinook from joining the effort. Despite the weather conditions yesterday, state agriculture officials delivered 62 round bales of hay, feeding an estimated 3,100 head of cattle. The Chinook flew eight missions delivering 24 large round bales and ground crews delivered 38 bales. The second Chinook was deployed from Lexington this morning. A total of 41 state and local personnel are working the hay relief effort representing ODAFF, OEM, Oklahoma Army National Guard and Cimarron County. Many area ranchers are also assisting with the effort. Oklahoma Agriculture Secretary Terry Peach is personally overseeing the operation from the Boise City Command Post. Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Herrin is serving as incident commander for the hay drop effort.

Joint preliminary damage assessment teams continue to survey damage in the affected areas of Texas and Cimarron counties. The teams include county and city officials as well as representatives of OEM and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The teams are documenting all damage to public facilities, roads and bridges as well as damage to the electric and phone systems caused by the Dec. 29 snow storm as well as the Dec. 19 ice storm. Their work should be complete today.

Power Outages

The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives reports about 1,550 Tri-County Electric Cooperative customers remain without power.

Jan. 8

HAY RELIEF EFFORT FEEDS 11,000 HEAD OF LIVESTOCK

State's response work now segues to recovery assistance for Panhandle

The State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) received the following reports related to the winter storm that moved through the Panhandle Dec. 29-30. State response assistance is now concluded, however the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) remains in contact with emergency managers as they work through the recovery phase of the incident. 

  State Assistance

Approximately 11,000 head of livestock were fed by “Cimarron County Ranch Rescue,” the state's hay relief effort. The program to feed cattle, horses and other livestock stranded by the winter storm concluded Sunday. Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry delivered round bales of hay using two Oklahoma Army National Guard Chinook helicopters as well as flat bed trailers. The Chinooks flew 43 mission hours, delivering 201,150 pounds of hay. The helicopters and 14 crew members were from the Oklahoma Army National Guard Aviation Support Facility in Lexington . Many area ranchers also assisted with the effort which Oklahoma Agriculture Secretary Terry Peach personally oversaw from the Boise City Command Post.

Recovery efforts continue, including preliminary damage assessment work. Teams which include county and city officials as well as representatives of OEM and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), have been surveying damage to  public facilities, roads and bridges as well as damage to the electric and phone systems caused by the Dec. 29 snow storm and the Dec. 19 ice storm. Damage estimates will be available tomorrow.

  Power Outages

The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives reports about 1,500 Tri-County Electric Cooperative customers remain without power.

  Telephone Outages

None reported at this time.