FROZEN: Moore Sleds Through Historic Winter WeatherMar 08, 2021
KOCO Chief Meteorologist Damon Lane says it was all the way back in November when he first had an inkling that things were going to get cold in Oklahoma.
"We were looking at our long-range winter weather patterns across the United States," said Lane, "And there was this consistent signal that there was going to some type of cold outbreak that was going to hit at either the end of January or beginning of February."
Lane, along with every other meteorologist working in the area, had no idea just how historic that long-range pattern would turn out to be. Not only did the region get hit with back-to-back snowstorms, but the metro Oklahoma City area also went 294 consecutive hours where the temperature remained at or below freezing. That's the second coldest stretch in Oklahoma history.
"What's crazier is that at one point, almost all of Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas were under a winter storm warning," said Lane. "I don't know that we've ever seen anything like that in this part of the country."
In conversations with some of his weather friends from North Dakota and Minnesota, Lane says even they were amazed by the power of the arctic storm that enveloped Moore.
"People in the northern states often scoff at the kind of winter weather we get here," said Lane. "But even they were in amazement at this storm. They even said, 'The storm you're getting would actually be pretty significant for us up here.'"
While many people focused on the snowfall amounts, which fell a bit shy of some early predictions in the 12-to-20-inch range, Lane says it was the ongoing cold which was really historic. Typically, Oklahoma will see a fast-moving arctic air mass that will chill things for three days or so before returning to average temperatures.
Not this time. Lane says the 2013 tornadoes in Moore and El Reno are easily the most significant weather event he's ever seen. But the big difference between those storms and this winter event is that the 2013 storms were localized in their impact while this winter storm covered all of Oklahoma and most of Texas and Arkansas.
"This is a part of the country that rarely sees these kinds of extended freezing temperatures," said Lane. "To have temperatures in the minus-15 to the minus-20 range is just extraordinary. I've been in Oklahoma for going on 12 years now, and this is the second biggest weather event I've ever experienced."
Extended sub-freezing temperatures and the accompanying snowfall could have wreaked all kinds of havoc on City of Moore residents. Fortunately, the city's street and utility crews were prepared for the event and managed to avoid any significant problems. Assistant City Manager Jerry Ihler says city leaders were paying close attention to Lane and the National Weather Service's forecasts.
"Those guys did a great job of letting us know what was coming our way and when it was going to hit," said Ihler. "We were able to get everything into place ahead of time, and our guys were ready to go on Saturday before the snow started falling."
Ihler said crews were on the streets as soon as the snow started falling on Saturday and worked 24-hours-a-day through Wednesday. Assisted by crews from Silver Star Construction, the teams worked 12-hour shifts keeping the main roads clear and access to side streets and businesses open.
"We got down a good mixture of sand and salt as soon as the first snow came in," said Ihler. "And then we had teams graded and pushing snow on the main arterial streets throughout both storms. We also had front-end loaders and skid-steer loaders following the trucks and plows, clearing access to neighborhood streets and business entrances that would get blocked off when you plow 12-inches of snow."
Lane, who was making the trip between his Moore home and the KOCO studios in OKC, says he definitely noticed the hard work road crews were doing.
"I would definitely give Moore very a very good grade on just the ability to clean up," said Lane. "I think it's part of that is that the city has experienced their share of big weather events, and so they just have a great idea of how big the scope of the problem is going to be."
Ihler says Moore's water system also weathered the sub-freezing temperatures well, even after Oklahoma City had to shut down their Draper Lake facility for a time.
"We get a substantial portion of our water from Oklahoma City," said Ihler, "So, we did have some residents experiencing low water pressure for short periods. We also had a handful of breaks, most of which turned out to be private service lines. But unlike some other areas in the metro, we didn't have any ongoing problems."
Overall, Moore seems to have weathered a historic weather event a great deal better than anyone might have expected.
"Our crews did a wonderful job," said Ihler. "It certainly wasn't perfect, but we're pleased with the work they did and the time and effort they put into it."
Lane said, "When I look back at the weather stories that I probably have ever covered, this will definitely be one of the biggest not only because of the number of people it affected but the fact that it lasted for two weeks, not just a couple of days."