Governor Kevin Stitt declared a State of Emergency today for all 77 Oklahoma counties as state officials continued their emergency response preparations for a dangerous winter storm expected to impact the state over the weekend.
Oklahoma has already been coping with days of dangerously cold temperatures, freezing drizzle, and treacherous travel. However, the winter storm expected to begin moving through the state Saturday night into Sunday could bring up to a foot of snow in parts of the state with temperatures in the single digits and wind chills as low as -15 degrees.
“The State of Oklahoma is prepared and ready to respond to this storm,” said Gov. Stitt. “I encourage all Oklahomans to pay attention to the weather, check on your neighbors and use the Drive Oklahoma app to monitor travel conditions throughout the weekend.”
One way the state is preparing for the storm is activating the Stranded Motorist Assist Response Teams (SMART) to assist stranded motorists if needed. These teams of Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Oklahoma National Guard personnel will be placed strategically throughout the interstate system Sunday through Wednesday. This program is a joint effort between OHP, the Oklahoma National Guard, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
“The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is encouraging all residents to stay home during the upcoming winter weather event,” said Colonel Brent Sugg, Chief of the Highway Patrol. “While we will be prepared to rescue stranded motorists, those rescues are dangerous, not only for the motoring public but our troopers and other first responders as well. Staying at home ensures your safety and the safety of others.”
“ODOT crews in all 77 counties are prepared for this next storm after restocking our salt and sand supplies, readying equipment and putting third-party contractors on standby to supplement our crews and equipment as needed,” said Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz. “We want to thank those motorists who heeded the call this past week to delay travel during the height of the ice storm, but the need to stay off highways and interstates will be even greater this weekend. Even once we clear a highway, it could become impassable within an hour or less, depending on conditions. We implore Oklahomans to plan ahead and stay off roadways once the storm starts. Crews will be on around-the-clock operations until highways are clear for travel, which likely will be long after the precipitation stops.”
ODOT reports it is preparing for the worst-case scenario with several days of 24/7 response. Each weather event is a little different and crews will continually adjust operations throughout the storm as conditions change.
While all officials urge Oklahomans to stay off the roads when winter weather impacts travel safety, if you must get out on the roads, take the following precautions:
- Let others know your planned route and expected arrival time
- Check brakes, wipers, fluids and tire pressure
- Pack warm clothing, blankets, a flashlight, an ice scraper, sand or cat litter, jumper cables, non-perishable food and drinking water
- Charge your phone before you go and take a charging cord with you.
- Allow extra time for your drive. Slow down and avoid distractions.
- Buckle up.
For those planning to stay indoors through the winter storm, it’s still important to prepare now for the increasingly cold and dangerous weather.
“Prepare your home to stay safe and warm as temperatures drop,” said ODEMHS Director Mark Gower. “Be sure you have the proper storm supplies such as bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, batteries, heavy blankets and anything else you may need to get through the storm. Be especially careful with alternative heating sources such as electric space heaters or propane heaters.”
Officials remind Oklahomans to please heed the recommendation of public safety and transportation officials regarding travel conditions and stay tuned to local media and National Weather Service stations for updates throughout the winter storm. Check road conditions at www.okroads.org, on the Drive Oklahoma mobile app or your local weather forecast.