By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Residents across Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas received an early blast of winter weather Oct. 26 – 28 as several storms moved through the area, leaving thousands without power due to fallen tree limbs and downed power lines.
Many were still without electricity across the area over the weekend as crews worked to get power restored, including in Ponca City.
The storms were part of a wave of systems that moved through the area from Monday – Wednesday, bringing much-needed precipitation, including freezing rain and sleet. The system was attributed to a combination of cold temperatures, coupled with high moisture content.
“It started with an upper level low moving off the West Coast, toward the Oklahoma area, pulling in that moisture,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Day, Norman, Okla. “We had power outages, extensive tree damage, which in some cases, caused other damage – trees falling on vehicles, on houses.”
The first wave hit early Monday morning, bringing in the first precipitation, which included sleet and freezing rain. Main roads had already been pretreated with salt and sand, so travel was passable.
The second wave hit Tuesday, primarily with freezing rain, which caused the tree damage. Temperatures remained below freezing all day, leading to trees coated in ice, some of which were still covered with leaves. A third storm lasted much of the day Wednesday, though temperatures were above freezing, melting much of the ice.
The precipitation was much-needed, and most communities in Northern Oklahoma received several inches of rain. Newkirk registered 4.74 in., while Blackwell reported 4.36 in. Other neighboring communities included 4.1 in. in Burbank, 4.64 in. in Foraker and 3.49 in. Medford.
That rain, coupled with freezing temperatures led to extensive tree damage, and Newkirk experienced a lot of damage to trees, along with power outages. However, not everyone was left in the dark overnight.
“We did not lose all power. I think probably close to half the town (did), but the entire town did not lose power,” said Newkirk Fire Chief Adam Longcrier. “There wasn’t one specific side, but all over town.”
The first outage calls came in about mid-morning Tuesday, Longcrier said, with some customers without power Friday, Oct. 30. Power was finally restored Saturday, Longcrier said.
The city of Newkirk received help in restoring power from several crews from Stilwell and Collinsville, Okla., along with tree trimming crews from Winfield, who aided the electrical crews in restoring power.
“The tree trimming crews worked ahead of the electrical crews, so the electrical crews had a clear, open spot to work, getting rid of tree limbs before the electrical crews arrived,” Longcrier said.
Many properties reported extensive damage to trees, which made power restoration more difficult due to falling limbs.
Amy Horinek has a house in Newkirk, as well as on a farm east of Kildare. Tree damage was reported at both locations, but only her Newkirk house lost power.
“We lost a lot of lot of limbs. We hauled about 12 trailer loads of limbs. I have a tree that, most of it’s limbs are lost, so we’ll have to wait until the spring to see if it blossoms,” Horinek said. “We didn’t get power back on in Newkirk until Thursday evening, at 7 p.m.”
Some roads did see ice, but most frozen precipitation was on trees and elevated surfaces.
“There was some roof damage, but the majority of the house damage is the broken weather head, where the wires come into the house and connect to the meter,” Longcrier said.”We definitely had some ice on the roads, side roads were slick, but the majority of the ice was on the trees.”
Many facilities closed due to the inclement weather, including Newkirk Public Schools (NPS), which used snow days Tuesday – Thursday due to the storms.
“We had so many people in our community without power we didn’t think it was right to put them in school since many were without power,” NPS Superintendent Scott Kempenich said. “Without power, they can’t do virtual learning, they can’t get on the Internet.”
The Senior Citizens Center also closed Wednesday due to the inclement weather.
“We didn’t have lunch Wednesday because we are closed the day the school is closed,” Senior Center Director Serena Welch said. “With the ice on the roads, the downed power lines and tree limbs, we wanted to keep them safe, so we closed for lunch.”
They did however prepare a lunch for the workers, as well as delivered meals for those in need.
“We delivered meals to the city workers. Whoever needs anything, I’ve been taking it to their house, so they’re okay,” Welch said.
Like the rest of the community, local businesses were impacted sporadically by the ice, with some losing power, while others remained open.
Newkirk Dental Clinic lost power for several days, along with their Blackwell facility.
“We lost electricity mid-day Tuesday, and it messed up a lot of our electronics, so we we closed all day
Wednesday,” said Newkirk Dental Center Director Misty Jordan, adding that the Newkirk office reopened a Thursday, while Blackwell met patients Friday. “We had some issues with breakers, but got it all back up and ready to go.”
Capone’s Hoagies, on West Seventh Street Downtown, maintained power, which was important as they were able to feed some families who lost electricity.
“We stayed open until our regular closing time (7 p.m.). The big savior for us was the city building came by and bought subs for all the city workers,” said Bob Capone, who co-owns Capone’s Hoagies with wife, Faith Capone. “The furnace had to be shut down for safety concerns, so a couple of days were on the chilly side. The only reason we were open normal hours is because we had electricity, and people were without power, and wanted a hot sandwich. We saw a lot of hot sandwiches going out.”
The city dump on East Dry Road has been closed temporarily, and all tree limbs must be deposited in a special waste center, located on West Dry Road, past the Kay County Detention Center. The new location is mandated through the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ).
“Because of federal grants we can receive because of storm damage, we have to measure debris in cubic yards, and they want to see the amount of damage the city took, and in order to do that, it has to be separated from any city property we took,” Longcrier said.
Electricity was slowly restored to the community, and everything has returned to normal, and the city is grateful for the community support.
“We appreciate the citizens for being patient with us,” Longcrier said.