Sleet storm paralyzes county

By Zach Maxwell

December 7, 2013

The sleet shower which partially paralyzed Bryan County over the weekend has turned into the Great Melt of ‘13 - but not without some slippery drama.

Here is a time line of events from the sleet and ice storm which impacted Durant, Bryan County and a wide swath of eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas and northeast Texas:

THURSDAY, Dec. 5 - Freezing rain and sleet reported in Durant as early as 3 p.m. Schools, government offices and some businesses closed early. Minor wrecks reported immediately as roads slickened due to first wave of icy rain and sleet. Low temperature of 26 reported.

FRIDAY, Dec. 6 - Two to four inches of sleet fell in Bryan County, covering streets in a thick sheet of ice. Police reported numerous cars sliding off roads, especially on US 75 and around Caddo. At least one injury was reported in a one-vehicle accident on Armstrong Road north of Durant.

Schools, government offices and most businesses shuttered for the day. An estimated 300 Bryan County customers of SE Electric Cooperative lost power due to ice storm conditions in the eastern part of Bryan County. A high of 27 and a low of 19 reported for Durant.

SATURDAY, Dec. 7 - No wintry precipitation was recorded in Durant, which brought people out of their homes. All but major highways were covered in hard-packed ice, leading to traffic mishaps all over Bryan County.

Lakewood VFD reported a truck sliding off the road into the lake with people injured. In Durant, several vehicles slid off of Briarwood Drive at the low water crossing with Chuckwa Creek. The Oklahoma National Guard helped patrol area roads for stranded motorists.

All the highways from the Durant area to Texas were closed on Saturday evening by Oklahoma Highway Patrol due to icy and hazardous conditions. Several jack-knifed trucks were reported in Texas and Oklahoma along US 75. The National Guard assisted in helping stranded motorists.

Volunteers from the Durant Medical Reserve Corps opened a warming station at the Bryan Co. Health Department Meeting Room overnight Friday and Saturday. Two people were served at the warming center, which as not re-opened after Sunday. A high of 26 and a low of 14 reported on Saturday.

Several holiday-related events scheduled in Durant for Saturday were canceled.

SUNDAY, Dec. 8 - Most churches canceled their morning services. Temperatures crept just above freezing for the first time since Thursday night, leading to a messy melting of the ice.

But roads remained slick and hazardous, with stranded cars reported across Bryan County. One blocked an intersection on Cale Switch Road in Calera. A high of 32 and low of 25 recorded.

MONDAY, Dec. 9 - With an over-night re-freeze of wet roads across the region, Southeastern Oklahoma State University decided to close its Durant campus. Final exams were re-scheduled for later in the week.

A holiday lighting ceremony scheduled for Monday evening at SE also was canceled. All schools in Bryan County cancelled classes due to the ongoing ice on area roads.

TUESDAY, Dec. 10 - Durant, Rock Creek, Boswell, Colbert and Calera schools canceled classes. Southeastern announced it would re-open on Tuesday.

Durant Street Department’s Street Superintendent James Young said the department has done everything they can over the weekend to improve road conditions.

He said work began early with an ice-melt mixture on bridges and overpasses known to be an issue with ice. He said unfortunately most of the mixture was washed away with the freezing rain.

Young said street sanding started Thursday night with one crew working through the night. Sanding efforts were made Friday morning, Saturday morning, Saturday night and Sunday morning, as well.

Ice removal efforts were made near schools and in parking areas on Monday as well as sanding along routes for the sanitation department. Young said effort to de-ice will be made on sidewalks and the local airport today.

Roofs on several buildings collapsed, including at the city sanitation department and at the Tile Shop. No injuries were reported.

The death toll from the recent storm that brought snow, sleet, ice and subfreezing temperatures to Oklahoma since late last week rose to 8 on Monday, the Associated Press reported.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management reported the state medical examiner’s office has confirmed that the deaths were weather-related — including three fatal traffic accidents.