Midwest Ice Storm Leaves 23 Dead; 1,000,000 Powerless; 400 O'Hare Flights Canceled
December 12, 2007
By James Beltran, AP
DES MOINES A thick glaze of ice brought down power lines and cut electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes and business, closed schools and canceled flights Tuesday as a major storm blasted the nation's midsection.
Photo: Lance McClintock of Long, Okla., works on getting a fire started to cook chicken as his wife Melissa looks on Monday. The couple was among the hundreds of thousands who lost power in the Midwest ice storm. If these and the other 1,000,000 people without power had purchased and knew how to use home generators safely, they would be warm and comfortable, cooking inside. In times of prolonged power outages - especially in winter - there are always deaths reported directly in association with improperly used generators. At no time should generators ever be operated indoors! People were warned it may be up to 10 days before power is restored. (EPA)
Officials estimated that nearly 1 million people were without power across the Midwest.
Many travelers also were grounded at Chicago, where about 400 flights were canceled Tuesday at O’Hare International Airport because of low visibility as the city braced for another possible round of freezing rain through the evening.
Kansas City International Airport in Missouri canceled more than 90 flights Tuesday morning, but spokesman Joe McBride said that was probably due to problems at other airports.
At least 23 deaths had been blamed on the storm system since the waves of sleet and freezing rain started during the weekend. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses had no electricity.
Officials in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma had declared states of emergency. President Bush declared an emergency in Oklahoma on Tuesday, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts.
Iowa’s largest school district closed for the day in Des Moines, telling its nearly 31,000 students to stay home, and kids across most of Oklahoma and in the Kansas City, Mo., area stayed home for a second day.
Photo: A sign on the front of a Home Depot store in Oklahoma City, Dec. 11, 2007, advises customers of the supplies they have already sold out of. With no power, the store is operating on cash-only basis for those needing supplies. A winter storm has coated much of Oklahoma in ice, knocking out power to more than 400,000 home and businesses. (AP)
HOLLY NOTE: This is a vivid example of why it's vital to keep cash on hand in small demoninations. With the majority of cash registers automatically figuring change due customers, many checkers are hard-pressed to do this basic math. Make sure to check your change for the correct amount received.
As with most major disasters, generators are one of the first items to sell out. Generators were flown to New Orleans during the 2005 Katrina disaster from as far away as California untill all supplies ran dry. However, doing without power is especially dangerous and difficult in winter.
Schools also were closed in parts of Wisconsin, including Milwaukee Public Schools with 85,000 students. “We thought about our kids on foot,” said Milwaukee schools spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin. Some drivers couldn’t even get to their buses, she said.
MORE ICE, SLEET AND SNOW
About an inch of ice was expected Tuesday over parts of Iowa, followed by up to 5 inches of sleet and snow. “It’s a pretty good ice-maker,” said Frank Boksa, a National Weather Service forecaster.
Ice as much as an inch thick had accumulated on trees, power lines, streets and car windshields Monday in parts of Oklahoma and Missouri, with thinner layers elsewhere.
Crews were sent from Texas, Louisiana, Indiana and Mississippi to help repair power lines, which snapped seemingly as quickly as they could be repaired.
“The predictions were pretty grim, and they’re still not good at all,” said Noelle Runyan, a weather service meteorologist. “With ice accumulations of more than half an inch, that could easily cause limbs to break, power lines to come down. It’s going to be across a fairly wide area.”
Photo: Trees sag and branches snap under the weight of the ice at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. (Kristen Lazalier)
Nearly 600,000 Oklahoma homes and businesses still had no electricity Tuesday, most of them since Monday when power lines began snapping under the weight of ice and falling branches the biggest power outage in state history.
“This particular storm is now the worst in company history in terms of customers affected,” said Brian Alford, spokesman for Oklahoma Gas and Electric.
“This is a big one. We’ve got a massive situation here and it’s probably going to be a week to 10 days before we get power on to everybody,” added Ed Bettinger, a spokesman for Public Service Company of Oklahoma. “It looks like a war zone.”
Utilities in Missouri reported about 170,000 homes and business without power. Outages elsewhere affected more than 100,000 customers in Kansas, more than 60,000 in Iowa and nearly 18,000 in Illinois.
The storm even put a crimp on presidential campaigning, with Republican Mike Huckabee canceling stops in western Iowa and former President Bill Clinton calling off appearances in eastern Iowa on behalf of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
IOWA, NEBRASKA AIRPORT ISSUES
Photo: Tree trimmers from Shade Tree Service Company try to make way for the utility company to get power hooked up on Monday, Dec. 10, in Jefferson City, Mo. (By Julie Smith, News Tribune, AP)
Des Moines International Airport closed because of ice late Monday and could be closed most of Tuesday, said spokesman Roy Criss. The airport, which also was shut down by winter weather two weeks ago, has 138 arrivals and departures per day, he said.
“This rain keeps refreezing. We put chemicals down, it melts and the freezes again. We can’t stay ahead of it,” Criss said. “This is not fun.”
Southeastern Nebraska also had power outages Tuesday and some flights in and out of Omaha’s Eppley Airfield were canceled.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers sent 50 generators and three truckloads of bottled water from Texas to distribute to blacked-out areas of Oklahoma.
At least 23 deaths most of them in traffic accidents had been blamed on the ice and cold since the weekend, including 15 in Oklahoma, four in Kansas, three in Missouri and one in Nebraska.