Old Man Winter crosses Red River from Texas
Old Man Winter made his presence felt across Southwest Oklahoma Wednesday.
Only 24 hours after temperatures topped 70 degrees, sleet and freezing rain crossed the Red River and brought the first real taste of winter this season. The first precipitation began to fall after 10 a.m. in the Lawton area. Light snow was reported in Duncan and Altus, while light freezing rain was reported at Frederick by 11 a.m., according to the National Weather Service in Norman. Snow was covering the ground and streets in downtown Lawton by 11:30 a.m. and sleet became heavier around 1:30 p.m.
As the frozen precipitation began to fall, City of Lawton Streets Division operations mobilized. Motorists are asked to remain at least 200 feet behind salt and sanding equipment and not to pass the vehicles. The operations are restricted to the city's major roads and crews will not cover residential streets.
"Each salt/sand truck carries a mixture of rock salt and rock sand which can cover five lane-miles per load," said Streets and Traffic Control Superintendent Cliff Haggenmiller. "Each route is approximately 44 miles in length, and it takes approximately 578,680 pounds of salt and sand to cover all identified routes within city limits."
Lawton Police Sgt. Tim Jenkins, public information officer, said police responded to at least eight vehicle accidents across Lawton from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Jenkins said some drivers slid off the roadway, while others became stuck in the ice.
He posted an advisory on the Lawton Police Department Facebook page shortly after 1 p.m. suggesting that residents avoid traveling altogether. If they must venture out on the roads, they should take certain precautions, Jenkins said.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation crews from District 5 in Clinton were working on roadways in Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Kiowa and Tillman counties throughout the day.
"We are treating the slick areas starting with the bridges and overpasses," said Tim Tutten, the district's field maintenance manager. "As the roads get slicker, we treated them with salt screening and sand mixture."
Tutten said roadways were slick and hazardous and crews planned to work on the roadways in those counties and adjoining counties in western Oklahoma throughout the district until the storm ends.
Randy Hasley, Tillman County emergency management director, said the county received freezing rain and sleet, but no serious problems.
"Our roads are sleet covered, but people are getting up and down them all right," Hasley said. "And we have no ice on our electrical lines."
He said the storm did bring some light rain to the area though not enough to call it a "drought buster."
"We didn't get the moisture we were hoping for, but the farmers will be happy with what we got," he said.
A dispatcher at Stephens County Sheriff's Office in Duncan reported said there was a lot of ice on roadways throughout the county Wednesday afternoon.