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Southern Plains storm blamed for fatal crashes, disruption

Southern Plains storm blamed for fatal crashes, disruption

January 4th, 2019 by Associated Press in Local News

In this Jan. 2, 2019 photo, emergency personnel respond to a crash involving multiple vehicles and a Catoosa police officer who was on foot in Catoosa, Okla. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning through Friday morning for northern Texas and much of Oklahoma. (Stetson Payne/Tulsa World via AP)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A winter storm dropped sleet and snow on portions of the Southern Plains on Thursday, making travel treacherous and contributing to the deaths of at least four people in Oklahoma.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning through this morning for northern Texas, parts of the Texas Panhandle and much of Oklahoma. The region could see 3-7 inches of snow, along with ice accumulations of up to 1 inch. Other parts of Texas and Oklahoma were under winter weather advisories, and forecasters said a mix of wintry precipitation would create slippery road conditions and limited visibility.

Snow in southwestern Oklahoma led to slow-moving traffic on the roadways, said Mitchell Rhoades, owner of Leo & Ken's Truck Stop and Restaurant in Lawton, about 78 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

"There's been a few places closed and some traffic issues," Rhoades said. Still, the 24-hour truck stop had enough customers to keep its kitchen staff busy.

"I've got some working guys and a few other people in here," he said.

Sleet began falling Wednesday evening in parts of northwestern Texas, creating hazardous conditions for motorists, said Cole Gretillat, kitchen manager of the Copper Creek Restaurant in Abilene, about 172 miles west of Dallas.

"I'm from North Dakota and I know how to drive in the ice," Gretillat said. "Down here we don't get a lot of that."

The Abilene Police Department reported roads were "completely covered" in ice and sleet.

Snow routes were cleared for motorists in Oklahoma City. Downtown, pedestrians trudged through what Michael Edmond referred to as "sludge."

Edmond is part of a team that keeps the grounds and building clean at Devon Energy's headquarters. He used a push broom Thursday to clear snow and sleet from sidewalks around the company's 50-story tower. He would get a break by the end of the business day, but he said the night crew would keep busy with temperatures expected to drop below freezing again.

"It's just sludge right now. I was hoping it would stop," the 57-year-old Edmond said. "This stuff is going to freeze."

Authorities said at least four people were killed in Oklahoma and a police officer was injured in collisions on icy roads.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said a 63-year-old woman died Wednesday evening when her pickup veered out of control on a sleet-slickened road and was struck by a tractor-trailer rig in Pittsburg County.

Troopers said three more people died in two crashes Thursday, including a 76-year-old man whose vehicle slid out of control and struck a tree in Grady County. A Texas man was killed in a collision on Interstate 35 in southern Oklahoma, and a Texas woman died later at a hospital of injuries she suffered in the crash.

In northeastern Oklahoma, a police officer was recovering after being struck by a vehicle while working at the site of a crash on a bridge over Interstate 44 in Tulsa.