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Thunder, freezing rain marks storm’s arrival in Plains

By Tim Talley Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY – A winter storm moved into the southern Plains early Friday amid expectations that its freezing rain and sleet could cripple the region through the holiday weekend.

Freezing rain began overnight across parts of Oklahoma, southern Kansas and Missouri. The atmosphere was turbulent enough that thunder rumbled during an episode of freezing rain in Joplin, Missouri.

Forecasters said ice could cause power outages and numerous crashes on the region’s roadways. The storm system brought heavy snow and floods to California earlier this week.

“We could see some fairly significant ice accumulations,” National Weather Service forecaster Kevin Brown said. “Enough ice accumulations to cause a lot of problems with trees and power lines and power interruptions.”

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation cautioned drivers to slow down and avoid tailgating after major roads developed slick spots before sun-up Friday.

Forecasters issued ice storm warnings from the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles into southern Illinois, with up to 1 inch of ice expected in some locations. Precipitation is forecast to fall in waves Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

In northwestern Oklahoma, residents recalling a significant storm that left the area without power for three to four days in 2001 snatched up flashlights, batteries, propane, lamp oil and alternative energy sources on Thursday.

“They’re grabbing generators, and I’m sold out,” said Raymond Bopp, assistant manager of the Woodward Ace Hardware store in Woodward, Oklahoma, about 140 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management assembled generators and gathered supplies for use in temporary shelters, spokeswoman Keli Cain said.

Concern about the storm prompted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens to activate the state Emergency Operations Center.

“Everyone should be aware that this potential weather event could disrupt travel and cause power outages across the state,” Greitens said in a statement.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared a disaster emergency for all of her state’s 77 counties. She also issued an executive order suspending size and weight regulations for oversized vehicles to expedite relief efforts.

“Emergency personnel are coordinating with state and local officials to ensure we are prepared and ready for whatever comes our way,” Fallin said in a statement.

In California, the storm brought heavy snowfall in higher elevations and led thousands of people to evacuate as rivers surged.

Brown, the forecaster from the National Weather Service, said the Pacific Ocean moisture that helped feed the storm has shifted south, creating the potential for ice and heavy rainfall in southern Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas.

“We’re still going to have plenty of moisture to deal with. We could see some pretty strong storms as well,” he said.

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