2nd blizzard in less than week slams Plains region

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 25, 2013

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) National Weather Service officials in Kansas and Oklahoma issued blizzard warnings and watches through late Monday as the storm packing snow and high winds tracked eastward across West Texas toward Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. Forecasters warned of possible tornadoes in the southeast.
Snow covered Amarillo, Texas, where forecasters said up to 18 inches could fall, accompanied by wind gusts up to 65 mph. Paul Braun, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transport, said whiteout conditions and drifting snow had made all roads in the Texas Panhandle impassable. Authorities closed Interstate 40 from Amarillo to the Oklahoma state line and Interstate 27 from Lubbock to 60 miles beyond Amarillo.
“It’s just a good day to stay home,” Braun said. “This is one of the worst ones we’ve had for a while.”
The weather service issued a blizzard warning for the Oklahoma Panhandle and counties along the Kansas border, warning that travel in the area would be “very dangerous” until Tuesday morning with near zero visibility and drifting snow.
Texas officials called in the National Guard to respond to emergency calls and help stranded motorists after Department of Public Safety troopers found roads impassable.
Billy Brown, a farmer in the town of Panhandle about 30 miles northeast of Amarillo, said the snow was coming down so hard that he could only see for about 100 feet and that it was forming drifts up to 3 feet deep. The whiteout forced all vehicles from the roads even the snow plows, he said.
“You can’t see anything,” Brown said. “I’ve got some farm equipment out there I can’t see at all plows and tractors.”
But he said the snow would bring some relief to the drought-stricken region. Wheat stubble still in the ground after the last harvest will act as a conduit for the snow, which will seep into the soil and provide much-needed moisture when he plants cotton and grain sorghum in the coming months.
“We have been super dry,” Brown said. “This is just a good old fashioned blizzard. We were overdue for one.”
In Lubbock early Monday winds whipped fallen snow off roof tops and the ground, adding to visibility woes. Streets were snow-packed and icy.
In Oklahoma, forecasters said up to 16 inches of snow could accumulate in some areas, with wind gusts reaching up to 55 mph. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol closed all highways in the state’s Panhandle, citing slick roads and limited visibility. Trooper Betsy Randolph said the patrol advised its non-essential personnel to stay home until Wednesday.
About a dozen flights were canceled at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. The Chicago Department of Aviation reported normal operations at Midway and O’Hare the bellwether air hub of the Midwest.
Blowing snow took Donna Lloyd by surprise in Guymon in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
“The wind is not usually like this,” said Lloyd, who manages a Wes-T-Go convenience store. “Our front door keeps freezing shut.”
Kerri Lewis, a convenience store manager in nearby Woodward, said she expected to be snowed in, especially as most of the roads out of town were already closed.
“You can’t hardly see across the street,” Lewis said. “I’m pretty much stuck.”
Announcing a snow emergency in Woodward County, Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer said almost two feet of snow was forecast for the area.
“Conditions are just treacherous right now,” he said. “It’s even dangerous for road-clearing crews to be out.”
Several motorists had reported being stranded, but so far there hadn’t been serious accidents, he added.
In Wichita, Kan., officials said they had barely recovered from last week’s storm that dumped up to 18 inches of snow.
Joe Pajor, deputy director of public works in Wichita, told The Wichita Eagle that sand and salt supplies were low and that the city’s strategy might just be to plow snow into the center of arterial streets and cut traffic to one lane in each direction. He said the city wouldn’t begin to use its limited sand and salt supply until the snow stopped falling and plowing was under way.
Steve Corfidi, meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said the storm also will affect southern states and could spawn tornadoes Tuesday in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, the Florida Panhandle and Georgia.
By Monday morning, several inches of snow had fallen on much of West Texas and the Texas Panhandle, where forecasters predicted more than a foot could fall. The incoming storm sent Amarillo residents running out for last-minute supplies. Mario Delgado, 57, needed milk.
“I got all the good stuff like soup and peanut butter the other day,” Delgado told the Amarillo Globe-News. “We’re used to it here.”
He added: “As long as you got plenty of clothes and the right kind of shoes, you’ll be alright.”