Altus Schools joined other districts, Southwest Technology Center, Western Oklahoma State College and other schools across the area by closing this morning due to the threat of dangerous road conditions later in the day. With the closing of schools, was also the cancellation of sporting events including wrestling matches at Altus High School and basketball games at WOSC.
A powerful storm expected to bury Oklahoma and the southern Plains in heavy snow and ice began moving into the area around 4 a.m. today. The freezing rain was expected to turn into sleet by day’s end with accumulations of 1/10 to 1/3 inch. The National Weather Service expected up to 12 inches of snow in western and northern Oklahoma, while ice storms and widespread power outages were anticipated in areas south of Interstate 44. Power outages are expected because of ice weighing down power lines and snapping them.
The first power outages in the area today were reported around 8 a.m. from Harmon Electric in Greer County.
Altus Air Force Base was closed today with only essential personal asked to report in. Several flights were also canceled at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City and Tulsa International Airport.
Gov. Brad Henry declared a statewide emergency on Wednesday for all 77 counties in Oklahoma, providing a formal mechanism for local governments to seek reimbursement for recovery costs. Henry said the anticipated strength of the storm prompted emergency management authorities to ask him for the early declaration.
"Our hope is the storm will not be as severe as many weather models have predicted, but we will be ready to respond to anything," Henry said. "State troopers, National Guard personnel, emergency management officials, road crews and other first responders will all be on call, helping Oklahomans everywhere they can."
The National Weather Service said 8 to 12 inches of snow was possible in northwestern Oklahoma, while rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow was expected elsewhere. Winter storm warnings also covered the Texas Panhandle, where forecasters said between 4 and 8 inches of snow could fall by this evening.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management planned to open an Emergency Operations Center early today to coordinate the state's response to the storm.
Altus and other local schools are waiting to see what the storm brings to the area before making a decision on whether or not to cancel classes on Friday.
Other area reports due to the storm this morning include a tree catching fire after a transformer exploded behind the DHS building, and ice causing a power line to break and fall across a house east of Blair.
By 10 a.m., the City of Altus was receiving calls of downed tree limbs due to ice; three telephone poles were snapped on S. Park Lane, others were arcing, and power lines on South Main were reported down.