Approximately 11,700 Norman OG&E customers were without power Wednesday and many more have sustained damage from downed trees and power lines after this week’s ice storm in Cleveland County.
OG&E spokesperson David Kimmel said the company had approximately 2,000 crew member in the field Wednesday and were mobilizing additional crews to join the effort in restoring power to its customers.
There is no time estimate as to when power will be restored, Kimmel said.
"At this point, we're still in kind of the assessment mode trying to assess what the extent of the damage is for everybody, so we're still working on everybody," Kimmel said. "We hope to get that out soon."
Capt. Marcus Williams of the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office said he saw “pretty severe” damage out in the more rural parts of the county where CCSO usually patrols.
“Lots of trees down on top of fences, roofs and in the middle of roads,” Williams said. “It’s weird [for anything like this] to happen at this time of the year.”
Due to the unusual timing of this ice storm, many people were unprepared for the outages and damage sustained from it, Williams said.
“So many people don’t have power, so we’ve been driving around seeing if anyone needs anything and we’re seeing a lot of damage,” he said.
The loss of power is significantly impacting the southern part of the county, Williams said, from trees falling on top of power lines to ice forming on the lines and ultimately bringing them down. Despite temperatures rising above freezing, it will be hard to recover.
“Even though the weather is warming and the lines and the trees are getting relief, the damage is already done,” Williams said.
According to a Facebook post by Norman’s Ward 3 City Councilmember Alison Petrone, the City of Norman will be hiring a contractor to pick up curbside storm debris. In addition, the city will be working with volunteers from OU to assist in the cleanup, the post said.
“Because the contractor cannot go onto private property, the OU [RUF/NEKS] have volunteered to help Senior Citizens and residents from our disability community who are in need of additional help getting downed limbs to the curb,” Petrone said in her Facebook post. “The city will be coordinating this volunteer effort.”
Petrone also encouraged those who are in need of physical assistance to get their storm debris out onto the curb to send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with its approximate location and physical address.
Cleveland County Commissioner Darry Stacy said past natural disasters prepared the county for how to handle the ice storm when it hit.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of practice with this [from] the tornados that have come through. So our guys immediately divided into two 12-hour shifts so we could cover the entire day as it was coming in, so they’ve been working around the clock since this started,” Stacy said.
Safety remains their top priority, he said.
“The No. 1 thing that they’re doing is making sure that the roads are clear so the first responders can get through and go through the county as they need to,” Stacy said. “Then it’s really making sure that not only are the roads clear, but the hanging limbs and branches those kinds of things are clear and safe for the residents as well.”
Stacy said his advice to the citizens would be to watch out for falling ice, downed power lines and overhead dangers.
“Whether it’s trees or limbs that can still fall because they’re weakened, and if it’s ice at this point as things begin to melt,” Stacy said.
Another issue exacerbated by the weather is Norman’s homeless population. The city has set up a warming shelter for the homeless over the years. With winter rolling in, the City Council had plans to vote Tuesday on the lease agreement which is set to go into effect Nov. 1;. With this ice storm coming unexpectedly, the city had to make some changes.
“The [Continuum of Care’s] partnering agencies have expanded their daytime operating hours and have kept their doors opened for food,” city spokesperson Annahlyse Meyer said. “Salvation Army has also expanded their bed space and [is serving] dinner meals for all who need it.”
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