Local officials took the initial steps Monday to posture the City of Miami for federal assistance with storm relief.
It is a process they say they are too familiar with.
The year 2007 began with a major ice storm that blanketed Ottawa County in the second week of January.
Today, residents face day three of a year-end winter storm that has left thousands without power and forced hundreds into local hotels, warming centers and emergency shelters as they seek safer surroundings.
Sandwiched between the two frigid storms this year was a record-setting flood in July.
All three events placed Ottawa County in the lineup for state and federal assistance.
News came early today of President George Bush's emergency declaration for all 77 counties in Oklahoma. The announcement makes key federal and state programs available to governmental bodies affected by the Dec. 8 storm.
“How often does a community say it has had three federal disaster declarations in one year,” Miami Mayor Brent Brassfield said. “We made contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency today (Monday) and I have declared a local state of emergency. The paperwork was sent on to the state emergency management office as part of the statewide request for federal disaster aid.”
Miami escaped the most serious of devastation brought by the January storm, but is not so fortunate in this recent storm that plagued rural residents and surrounding counties, according to city officials.
“It is a different kind of storm,” Miami City Manager Michael Spurgeon said. “In January, Miami saw a lot of ice on the ground and road conditions were bad, but we didn't really have the accumulation on the trees.”
The difference, according to Spurgeon, has been devastating as even the city's oldest trees are breaking under the weight of the ice - bringing power lines down in random patterns and severing service lines to hundreds of households.
Three utility crews, one from Arkansas and two from Denton, Texas, are expected to arrive today to provide assistance to Miami as the city attempts to restore power.
Three tree-trimming crews, two from Stigler and one from Duncan, were working as of Monday.
The trimmers will work ahead of the linemen, clearing fallen limbs and trimming back low branches, according to city officials.
“People need to understand that the priority in this effort is to restore power,” Spurgeon said. “This is not about pruning Š it may not be pretty. The crews are going to get in there and restore power.”
As of Monday afternoon, four primary feeders were down as well as hundreds of secondary lines.
“We just ask that people be patient,” Spurgeon said. “The priority is to get the primary lines up first - because they are the power source - then work our way to the secondary and service lines.”
Due to power failure, water held in the Commerce tower has been depleted and the availability of water in Picher and Quapaw is in question, according to Ottawa County Emergency Management Coordinator Frank Geasland.
Geasland said those communities are now at risk in the event of a structure fire as water pressure is now compromised.
Water pressure, service and quality is strong in Miami, according to city officials.
City street crews will pick up limbs and storm debris from residential curbs beginning Dec. 17.
In the meantime, the city mayor is asking residents to wait a few days before collecting the debris and preparing it for curbside pickup.
“Don't let panic and inpatience alter good judgement,” Brassfield said as emphasized the downed poewer lines and falling limbs present hazards. “These are very dangerous conditions. Better weather is coming within hours and we will soon receive relief from these severe conditions.”
Limbs and branches can be dropped off at the city's solid waste treatment facility at no charge.
How Long will it Last?l
City officials said Monday that they cannot say when full power will be restored and all debris will be cleared.
People with special needs - such as oxygen dependent residents - are being asked to make arrangements for accomodations through the next seven days.
It is possible, according to officials, that some areas within the city will remain without power through the remainder of the week.
City administrators say it could take months to rid the city of all the damaged trees.
City and county officials are reporting that road condition, in terms of ice, are clear. However, the continued breaking of tree limbs is making city streets and county roads hazardous.
Tim Wilson, Miami Public Works Director, said Monday that crews had been working continuously to push debris from city streets - making multiple sweeps on city streets as limbs continue to fall.
Geasland echoed the city's frustrations. Volunteers from county fire departments are working around the clock to try keep roads in the county clear.
Injuries and Fatalities
The number of Ice Storm-related fatalities remains at 12, according to the Oklahoma State Medical Examiners Office. All died in motor vehicle accidents.
Two people died in separate wrecks in Oklahoma County.
One died in a crash in Canadian County.
Two people died in separate accidents in Beckham County.
One died in a crash in Tillman County.
Four died in an accident in Okfuskee County.
Two people died in accidents in Tulsa County (This includes a man who died today in Tulsa when a utility pole fell on his vehicle.)
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has worked more than 150 injury and non-injury collisions since Saturday night. OHP continues to discourage travel due to hazardous road conditions.
Oklahoma Corporation Commission reports that more than 592,000 homes and businesses statewide are without electric service.
AEP-PSO reports 250,000 customers without power, including 220,000 in the Tulsa metro area, 7,977 in Bartlesville and 6,827 in Vinita.
OG&E reports 276,242 customers without power, including 217,500 in the Oklahoma City metro area.
Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives reports about 65,800 rural electric customers without power.
The Empire District Electric Company reports that, as of 10:30 a.m. Monday, approximately 61,000 customers have lost service
City officials reported, as of Monday, that half the city remained without power.