The Norman Transcript

February 4, 2014

Winter isn’t over for Oklahoma

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — As wintry weather hits the state and moves through the nation, it’s looking like the groundhog got it right.

Groundhog or no groundhog, winter is never really over until the middle of March due to the tilt of the earth, according to weather experts. March 20 is astronomically the first day of spring. Until then, science and experience tells us snow and cold temperatures are possible.

“Some of our biggest snows and cold temperatures are often in February and March,” National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Brown said. “The groundhog is cute and funny, but his accuracy is less than desired. I think there were too many cameras this year, so I think he got scared.”

Still, sympathies are with the groundhog after the weekend snow that draped between three and four inches across Norman, according to measurements by the NWS.

Many will wake to more snow today, with cold temperatures expected throughout the week. The worst of today’s storm will hit the northern portion of Oklahoma.

“We’re only expecting an inch and a half or two inches in Norman,” Brown said Monday afternoon. “There are indications that Norman may only get a dusting. We’re expecting it to top out at two inches.”

City crews have been treating roads and bridges and will continue to do so throughout the week as winter weather rolls through.

“We’re really pacing ourselves, knowing that we just came out of a debris cleanup,” Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary said.

The debris removal was implemented in response to the ice storm that hit Norman on Dec. 20. The debris pickup was completed today — two days early to allow staff to focus on road conditions.

“We literally converted most of our equipment over this weekend in advance of that snow storm, and it went really well,” O’Leary said. “We did a fairly typical snowplow operation. We did some overnight pretreating of bridges. Basically, it was a very clean, dry snow that was a snowplow operation.”

City crews are working12-hour shifts around the clock.

“The city is trying to conserve salt and sand,” O’Leary said. “We’re trying to conserve it for Friday if we get that weather.”

O’Leary said it’s hard to get more salt and sand during a winter event. Crews will be prepared in case Friday’s event turns out to be worse than the early forecasts indicate.

“We’re in good shape. Our equipment is in good shape,” O’Leary said. “We’re feeling pretty good about being able to manage all three of these snow storms.”

It isn’t uncommon for winter weather in Norman to change from one extreme to another. Brown said the Southern Plains, which includes Oklahoma, is characterized by wild fluctuations of warm, cold, dry and wet.

“When you hear meteorologists talk about average temperatures, it’s just an average of extremes,” Brown said. “So far, the first part of winter was colder than average for most of the state. We had pretty close to average, if not slightly above average in the amount of moisture we received.”

The December ice storm was followed by warm temperature spikes in January and dry weather.

“Overall, January was very mild and very dry,” Brown said. “Now we’re into an active pattern where we’re getting more moisture, and the first part of February is colder than average. It’s completely different weather than we saw through most of January.”

February is keeping road crews busy. County officials said they were busy sanding roads over the weekend and are prepared for another round of winter precipitation this week.

“Hopefully we will not have as much, but we will be ready,” Commission Chairman Rusty Sullivan said at Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting.

Commissioner Darry Stacy encouraged residents to carry water and blankets while traveling in case they get stranded. He also encouraged travelers to let others know where they are headed and what route they will be taking.

Purcell, Noble and Little Axe school districts called off classes Monday.

Executive Editor Andy Rieger contributed to this article.


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