Following a week of unusually cold weather, meteorologists predict a second winter weather system to arrive in eastern Oklahoma early this week. Two overnight storms, predicted for Sunday-Monday and Monday-Tuesday, are currently projected to bring anywhere from six to 12 inches of snow to the Tulsa area. Wind chills of negative 20 degrees fahrenheit are predicted for both Sunday and Monday night. The city has not seen this amount of snow since 2013, when ice storms caused power outages for thousands of Tulsans.
The University of Tulsa, in preparation for the inclement weather, encouraged students to subscribe to TU Emergency Updates to keep up to date about events affecting campus such as power outages and campus closure. This can be done at https://utulsa.edu/campus-security/campus-safety-measures/#emergency-notification-system. The University also suggests that as long as temperatures are below freezing, students in apartments leave their faucets on a slow drip and open cabinet doors below skinks to prevent the pipes from freezing.
The crews maintaining city streets largely use salt and brine to melt ice on roads. Salt cannot melt snow or ice, limiting its usefulness in particularly cold temperatures. Brine, however, works in temperatures as low as negative six degrees. Currently, the city is focusing on plowing main roads before salting snow accumulations. Crews are prioritizing arterial roads, those with the most traffic, as opposed to secondary roads.
Officials recommend dressing in warm clothing that would keep you comfortable for hours when leaving the house to prepare for falls from an icy surface, which may result in immobilization. More than 115 falls, the majority of which resulted in hospitalization, were reported to EMSA officials before 5 p.m. last Thursday, Feb. 11. There have been numerous hospitalizations for cold exposure as well.
Residents are also encouraged to check the quality of housing and heating of their elderly or home-bound family and friends. With heating issues, health officials and emergency services are also prepared for an influx of carbon monoxide-related calls.
Teams from John 3:16 Mission were reaching out to people without housing last Monday, Feb. 8.
“People who are homeless in this cold, unless they built up a really sturdy camp, have to walk all night long. So, people want to know, why are homeless people walking all over downtown Tulsa? They are doing it because if they stop, they will die,” noted Rev. Steve Whitaker from John 3:16. There are approximately 1500-2000 people in need of shelter in the Tulsa area, with the majority of shelters at capacity.
Several groups seeking to help Tulsans experiencing homelessness organized supply drives to distribute things like food, sleeping bags, coats, blankets, hand warmers and hats. For example, the Tulsa Community Fridge Project accepted donated supplies at their Kendall Whittier Fridge and distributed supplies throughout the city. 918 Cares and Housing Solutions Tulsa raised more than $10,000 that went toward providing emergency housing for Tulsans.
Temperatures are expected to be higher by the end of the week, as a high pressure warm air mass will move into the area as the cold air mass moves out. However, meteorologists note that Tulsa “will just have to wait and see as the cold arctic air mass can be hard to push out.”