Midwest braces for second winter blast

0

DALLAS (AP) – Areas of the central U.S. still cleaning up downed trees and restoring power after recent snow and ice storms scrambled to stock up on sand and de-icing chemicals Thursday as another cold blast approached.

Much of Oklahoma and parts of Missouri were forecast to get 6 inches of snow between today and Sunday, even as utilities in those states worked to restore electricity to more than 170,000 customers who lost it in the last storm.

In Texas, the wintry weather due today was expected to be less severe than the pelting of snow and freezing rain that paralyzed much of the state this week and left San Antonio, Austin and Houston with icy conditions rarely seen there.

Those cities were expected to avoid the worst of the incoming storm, but to the west in El Paso, officials prepared for bad weather by announcing county offices would be closed today. Freezing weather also was expected in northern parts of the state, including Dallas.

Sand and deicing chemicals used to safeguard icy roads could be rationed this weekend to offset supplies depleted earlier in the week, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Randy Ormsby said. Bridges and overpasses will likely get priority, but icy roads that would normally get treatment may not if supply is in question.

Hard-hit areas that used most of their deicing chemicals earlier this week are “scrambling now to get more,” Ormsby said.

“It’s a problem we’ve never seen before. We typically don’t go through this much ice and snow statewide.”

At least 69 storm-related deaths have been reported in nine states in the past week, including 23 in Oklahoma and 12 each in Texas and Missouri.

Texas airports largely grounded by freezing rain earlier this week resumed mostly normal schedules Thursday. Formerly ice-slicked roads also reopened, including a 300-mile stretch of Interstate 10 from Fort Stockton to San Antonio that had been shut down since Tuesday.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Brad Henry requested a major federal disaster declaration, which would make people in hard-hit counties eligible for housing grants and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

Ice snapped hundreds of power poles and transmission lines in eastern Oklahoma; more than 63,000 people remained without power Thursday, six days after freezing rain began to fall, more than 1,000 people remained in shelters and many schools remained closed.

Mike Mackey, 47, who has been staying in an American Red Cross shelter in Muskogee with his wife and son, said the crushing weight of ice broke trees throughout his neighborhood.

“It looks like Godzilla came through there and just stomped them all down,” he said.

Erik Parrott, 28, a house framer, was going door-to-door with a chain saw, helping friends trim up fallen trees and branches. He has gas heaters to take the chill off his house, but no hot water, so he has had to go elsewhere to shower.

“I’ve been going to my ex-wife’s unfortunately,” he said.

In Missouri, particularly in the state’s southwest section, more than 108,000 homes and businesses were still without power Thursday, the State Emergency Management Office said.

The state has suffered a string of extended storm-caused blackouts, and Robert Clayton, a member of the state commission that regulates investor-owned utilities, said power companies need to do more to prevent such outages.

“We’ve been told we had the storm of the century in 2004, then there was one in 2005, then there were three in 2006,” Clayton said. “If weather patterns have changed, and I don’t know that they have, then we have to change the way we’re thinking about utility reliability.”

Along with the fatalities in Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri, the wave of storms was blamed for eight deaths in Iowa, four each in New York and Michigan, three in Arkansas and one each in Maine, Indiana and North Carolina.



Associated Press writers Justin Juozapavicius in Muskogee, Okla., Marcus Kabel in Springfield, Mo., Alicia A. Caldwell in El Paso, Michelle Roberts in San Antonio and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.

AP-ES-01-18-07 1945EST

Advertisement
SHARE