OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Crews have restored power to all but about 1,200 homes and businesses that had lost electrical service in winter storms that struck Oklahoma in the past two weeks.
The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives reported Friday that 1,166 customers remained without power. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma each reported no major outages.
At the height of the storms, more than 100,000 people lost power. At least 32 deaths have been attributed to the wintry conditions.
“We've got a lot of our co-ops that are finishing their consumer outages, where they've got the vast majority of consumers back on,”said Sid Sperry, a spokesman for electric cooperatives.
Sperry said the group expects to have electricity restored to all its customers by the end of the weekend except isolated cases where consumers are having problems with their equipment or where power lines are particularly difficult to access.
“Usually when you get down to this stage, the repair work tends to finish up fairly quickly,”Sperry said.
Most of the remaining outages were concentrated in northeastern Oklahoma. The largest number of customers without power were the 512 belonging to the Vinita-based Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative. There were also 384 homes and businesses without power in the Hulbert-based Lake Region Electric Cooperative, as well as 220 customers of the McAlester-based Kiamichi Electric Cooperative and 50 customers of the Okmulgee-East Central Oklahoma Electric Cooperative.
Sperry said the cooperatives have had to repair more than 5,000 utility poles - a total that is approaching the damage sustained in an ice storm around Christmas in 2000. Repair work has been slowed because much of the ice fell on parts of Oklahoma that are particularly hilly and covered by forests, he said.
“You can't rebuild something in hours or even days that took years and years to build,”Sperry said. “The repair effort, I think, has been remarkable.”
State officials estimate rural electric cooperatives and the 23 eastern Oklahoma counties hit hardest by the storm received nearly $40 million in damage.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management opened a call center Friday to collect damage reports related to the storm, which pounded the state Jan. 12-14. Residents and business owners who have uninsured damages can call the toll-free Oklahoma Ice Storm Damage Assessment Line from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., officials said.
The cost to remove debris in public areas is expected to be at least $13 million, the state emergency management department said.
Another winter storm was forecast to move across Oklahoma and North Texas beginning Friday night and continue into Saturday.
The National Weather Service has said this storm should only produce light amounts of precipitation, much of which could fall as rain because temperatures are expected to climb above freezing on Saturday.
Above-average temperatures seen on Thursday and Friday will be replaced by much colder air, forecasters said.