An abnormally early but powerful ice storm has crippled large swaths of Oklahoma, causing power outages for hundreds of thousands and toppling thousands of trees.
Lots of calls into 911 to report downed power lines. The best number for you to call to report such instances or outages is OG&E’s emergency line 405-272-9595 (inside the metro Oklahoma City area) or 800-522-6870 (outside the Oklahoma City metro area). pic.twitter.com/MwW0mOr0Ml— Oklahoma City Police (@OKCPD) October 27, 2020
The mix of rain, snow, sleet, freezing rain and gusty winds, which first struck on Monday night, caught public utility companies unprepared for the massive power losses. And restoring service remains difficult as weather forecasts indicate more freezing rain will continue to batter the state through Wednesday, causing even greater damage.
"Additional weight on tree limbs caused by ice accumulating on leaves has resulted in severe tree damage and limbs coming into contact with energized lines," Public Service Company of Oklahoma officials said in a statement Tuesday.
They added: "Due to continued ice, sleet, freezing rain and high winds, we're unable to provide specific information on when service will be restored."
Numerous house fires, vehicle accidents, smoke investigations, and power lines down. Firefighters working in this report that roads are getting slicker. Slow down, be careful, stay away from downed power lines and anything they are touching!— Oklahoma City Fire (@OKCFD) October 26, 2020
PSO officials said more than 650 workers, including line workers, tree crews and support staff, were dedicated to restoring power safely and as quickly as possible. An additional 385 workers from outside the area are expected to arrive in stages.
Power lines, already sagging under the weight of sometimes 2-inch thick ice casings, continue to crash over homes and other buildings, setting many of them ablaze. The Oklahoma City Fire Department has been issuing updates on new fires since the storm descended on Oklahoma City.
"Numerous house fires, vehicle accidents, smoke investigations, and power lines down. Firefighters working in this report that roads are getting slicker. Slow down, be careful, stay away from downed power lines and anything they are touching!" the department warned residents over Twitter.
People across the state are expressing their shock on social media about how quickly the frigid rain fell over warm surfaces, freezing nearly everything it touched.
One resident even photographed a black and yellow spider dangling from a tree branch and frozen in midair.
Others grabbed tape measures to show how much ice had accumulated on various objects.
One Twitter user remarked on the "wild scenes" in southeast Norman, Okla., where he said he could "hear healthy branches coming down almost every minute." Others posted videos of icicles dangling from road signs.
Wild scenes this morning. At least 3/8 inch of ice already on NE-facing surfaces in southeast Norman. Standing on the golf course, I could hear healthy branches coming down almost every minute. 8-inch tree cleaved in half in front of my building. Steady rain continues. #okwx pic.twitter.com/wny0Z2uoI2— Nolan Meister (@Nolan_Meister) October 27, 2020
Few trees were spared from at least some damage in Oklahoma City, including the "Survivor Tree," an American elm at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. The tree, which was undamaged in the 1995 terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, commemorates the 168 people who were killed. A banner on the museum website said it would remain closed until Oct. 29 because of the storm.
Memorial and OK State Forester Crews continue to work on the Survivor Tree this morning at the Memorial. We lost a branch but have propped up others to save them. We will continue to monitor it 24/7 throughout this historic storm. pic.twitter.com/xmLlMIaHHk— OKC Memorial (@OKCNM) October 27, 2020
"We lost a branch but have propped up others to save them," wrote the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum on Facebook. "We will continue to monitor it 24/7 throughout this historic storm."