Oklahoma braces for snow, heavy rain during holiday weekend

TIM TALLEY, Associated Press
AP Writer

(AP) — Oklahomans will face a mix of blizzard-like winter weather and torrential rainfall over the long holiday weekend.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard watch Friday for Cimarron County in the far western Oklahoma Panhandle, extending from Saturday evening through Sunday morning.

Mike Gittinger, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Amarillo, Texas, said blizzard conditions are expected to develop rapidly as the storm system pushes east into the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles on Saturday.

"We're expecting it to deteriorate pretty fast," Gittinger said.

Snow accumulations of up to 6 inches with locally higher amounts are possible in Cimarron County, including the cities of Boise City and Keyes, forecasters said. Northerly winds of up to 40 mph with gusts near 55 mph will create white-out conditions, making travel difficult.

"Take the time Saturday morning to get whatever supplies you may need," Gittinger said. "Be prepared to stay put."

A combination of strong northerly winds and temperatures in the teens and 20s will produce dangerous wind chills as low as 5 below zero.

Meanwhile, a winter storm watch remains in effect in the remainder of the Oklahoma Panhandle as well as western and central Oklahoma from Saturday evening through Monday.

Sleet and freezing rain may initially develop early Sunday along the Interstate 44 corridor, with snow and blowing snow developing later Sunday across western and northwestern Oklahoma, forecasters said. The snow will move into central Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City, early Monday and end Monday night.

Combined snow and sleet accumulations of 4 to 10 inches are possible across the region. Ice accumulations due to freezing rain of up to one-half of an inch are also possible.

Elsewhere in the state, flash flood watches are in effect in southern and eastern Oklahoma, where forecasters say up to 9 inches of rain could be recorded through Monday.

Forecasters said flash flooding and significant river flooding are possible Saturday and Sunday. Heavy rainfall is expected across a large portion of southeastern and east central Oklahoma as well as northwestern Arkansas. Several major streams in the region, including the Kiamichi, Poteau and Illinois rivers, could experience moderate to heavy flooding.