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Dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills below zero are expected in Oklahoma City on Wednesday

Oklahoma City, Tuesday February 04, 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City, Tuesday February 04, 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

Although the latest round of ice and snow wasn't as bad as expected Tuesday, forecasters are warning of dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills below zero Wednesday.

The low early Wednesday is expected to be 11 degrees, with a wind chill of 9 below zero. Wednesday's high is only forecast to be 16 degrees, with wind chills staying below zero, and the overnight low reaching single digits.

Officials with City Rescue Mission said the group's emergency shelters are preparing to house more people.

The group began stocking its men's and women's emergency shelters with extra blankets and mats to provide space for more people than its 640 beds usually accommodate.

Lara O'Leary, spokeswoman for the Emergency Medical Services Authority, said any members of the homeless population sleeping outside will be at serious risk.

“You can't put on enough layers when you are sleeping outside in that cold,” she said.

“There really is no way you can stay outside and not feel some effect from the cold weather from frostbite to hypothermia,” she said.

O'Leary said it's not just the homeless at risk. Anyone who spends time outside in wind chills below zero needs to be careful.

“Cold temperatures can be deadly, and people often underestimate how dangerous it is,” O'Leary said. “It takes its toll on a wide variety of people, everyone from the elderly to the young ones who might be waiting for the bus in the morning.”

Emergency Medical Services Authority Clinical Director Jim Linham said a short trip to the mailbox or the grocery store can become an ordeal, especially with ice and snow on the ground.

“You slip on the ice or your car breaks down, and you don't have the proper clothing or protections, and that's where we see the problems,” Linham said. “We urge people to be very cautious. Wear breathable layers, preferably cotton or wool.”

Any exposed skin is susceptible to frostbite when the wind blows, so hats and hoods can also go a long way in keeping people protected, he said.

In addition to the frigid temperatures, there is a chance of snow early Thursday beginning just after midnight, with chances of snow continuing through Friday.

Tuesday's snow was less than expected, although far northern parts of the state still got as much as 8 inches.

Ryan Barnes, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, Norman Forecast Office, said the wintry precipitation started late Monday and continued through early Tuesday and into Tuesday afternoon in portions of Oklahoma.

“On average we're seeing anywhere from about 4 to 6 inches of snow across northern and northwestern Oklahoma, with some locally higher amounts,” Barnes said. “Parts of the OKC metro received around an inch of snow.”

Some reports to the National Weather Service included 8 inches of snow at Woodward, Gage, Alabaster Caverns State Park and near Camp Houston.

There were reports of 7 inches of snow at Laverne, Fort Supply and Cherokee.

By Tuesday afternoon most of the precipitation had ended. The extreme low temperatures could make refreezing an issue, leading to hazardous travel, particularly on bridges and overpasses, Barnes said.

The potential winter storm Wednesday night through Friday shouldn't bring large accumulations, he said.

“Right now, we're expecting all snow,” he said. “With amounts we're looking at maybe 1 inch for central and west-central Oklahoma, so nothing too significant, but that still will cause travel problems across the area given the very cold temperatures.”

Bryan Painter

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Bryan Dean

Bryan Dean is a breaking news reporter who also covers the military and open government issues for The Oklahoman. Bryan has worked at The Oklahoman since 2002 and has covered a variety of beats including local government. He is a native Oklahoman... Read more ›