The Norman Transcript

December 20, 2011

Storm moves east through the Panhandle

Staff and wire reports
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Vicki Roberts skipped her mail route Monday and prepared to settle in front of the fireplace with a good book as a blizzard moved into the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Up to 18 inches of snow was forecast in Cimarron and western Texas counties by the National Weather Service.

Five counties neighboring the Panhandle were under a winter storm watch with 3 to 12 inches of precipitation forecast. Rain fell in Norman on Monday and was expected to continue across the rest of the state Monday.

Water gathered in low spots across Cleveland County on Monday, by 8 p.m. the bulk of the rain had moved out of the area, according to the National Weather Service radar.

The snow started falling around 8 a.m. in Kenton, where Roberts owns a bed and breakfast, and by early evening had caused the Oklahoma High Patrol to shut down two of the four major routes out of Boise City in Cimarron County.

“We shut down U.S. 56 westbound out of Boise City due to blizzard conditions and for humanitarian reasons,” OHP dispatcher Pat Barton said.

“They have no hotel rooms or shelter spaces all the way Clayton, (N.M.),” about 45 miles to the southwest, Barton said.

U.S. 287 north out of Boise City also was shut down because of numerous accidents on the snow-slickened road, Barton said.

No serious injuries were reported.

The OHP also said U.S. Highway 54 from Guymon, one of two major roadways through the region’s largest city, into the Texas Panhandle was closed because of slick roads.

Roberts, the owner of Black Mesa Bed and Breakfast, said when she peered outside, she couldn’t even see the nearby mesa, which at 4,973 feet is the highest point in Oklahoma.

The state was expected to be walloped by a storm just days before winter starts and the Christmas travel rush begins. The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for the Panhandle, and forecasters said up to 16 inches of precipitation could fall before the storm departs today.

Roberts said there were no guests at her five-room inn at the foot of the mesa and a short distance from the Colorado and New Mexico borders and no one was stranded. She didn’t plan on getting stuck on the road either.

“I have a mail route and I’m not going. You just don’t get out in this,” Roberts said. “We’ll be socked in here. If we lose power, we’ll just read a book in front of the fireplace.”

No power outages were reported early Monday night.

Snow began falling across the rest of Cimarron County on Monday afternoon as the blizzard moved east, county Emergency Management Director Cliff White said. It hit Boise City, the county seat about 20 miles southeast of Kenton, just before noon.

Snow had also begun to fall in neighboring Texas County, said Emergency Management Director Harold Tyson, who described the coming storm as a “mess” because .63 inches of rain had fallen already, causing roads to become slick.

Tyson said no injuries had been reported because of the storm and that there were no power outages, although outages were a concern because of snow and ice possibly accumulating on power lines and tree limbs that could snap and crash through the power lines.

About 500 trucks statewide were available to remove snow and ice off roads, Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokeswoman Brenda Perry said.