The Heat Is Online

US Winter Breaks Budgets and Records

2003 winter may be a record breaker,
Feb. 27, 2003

Baltimore yesterday recorded its second-snowiest winter on record -- with almost 53 inches. But before the ink has a chance to dry, that number's going to have to be replaced because of a forecast of another six to 12 inches of snow today and tomorrow. And there could be still more snow this weekend.

Wide sections of the East have been hammered by yet another big storm. Schools in the Washington area are being closed again today. Traffic has been snarled.

The storm, which stretched from Texas to the Northeast, left a thick layer of ice on top of snow in many places, including Arkansas.

Nearly a dozen people have died in traffic accidents.

Relief lay on the horizon for snow-battered Oklahoma but not before the state gets extra doses of winter weather on Thursday and Friday.

The National Weather Service issued winter weather advisories for all but the Oklahoma Panhandle late Wednesday.

Northern counties already digging out of 1 to 1 1/2 feet of snow may see up to 3 inches more as another system moves through the Southern Plains. Other parts of Oklahoma could see snow or more worrisome freezing rain or freezing drizzle before the precipitation tapers off in the afternoon, the weather service said.

Another storm will follow on its heels, bringing the threat of snow, freezing rain or rain to the state on Friday. Temperatures are forecast to climb to 32 degrees or above over the next few days.

On Wednesday, Oklahoma communities tallied the storms' monetary costs, but there has been a human toll, too. The cold weather has been blamed for the death of Enid woman and it may have played a role in the death of a Sperry man, authorities said.

An Enid police officer checking on the welfare of Geneva Beckwith found her on Monday inside her home, where the temperature was 21 degrees. The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office ruled that she died of hypothermia.

Officer Quent Tubbs said he saw Beckwith's dog on the floor dead when he looked in the house through a window. After getting inside, Tubbs found Beckwith, 84, in a back room, his report stated.

Tubbs found two space heaters Beckwith had gotten from the Salvation Army, but they were not turned on, his report stated.

In Tulsa, coroners determined that Richard O. Martin Jr. died of heart failure. But a sheriff's official said the weather may have been a factor in his death.

Martin's vehicle slid into a ditch in north Tulsa County, and investigators believe he suffered heart failure and died while walking back to his house. He was found about 4 a.m. Tuesday in the snow.

Meanwhile, communities were assessing how deeply road-clearing efforts would reach into their coffers.

Even before Wednesday, the city of Tulsa had exceeded its overtime budget for road crews by $6,000. City trucks have applied more than double the budgeted amount of salt to city streets, said Bob Bledsoe, Public Works Department spokesman.

The town of Newkirk and Kay County both declared emergencies through the Oklahoma Department of Civil Emergency Management, said spokeswoman Michelann Ooten.

Newkirk cited $30,000 in response costs and Kay County claimed $1 million in response and damage costs.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation did not have estimates yet on storm costs. But as many as 1,200 maintenance workers had been working throughout the state since Saturday to keep roads passable, said spokeswoman Terri Angier.

The department expects to remain well within the $8 million budgeted for winter road clearing since it only spent $3.6 million last year, she said.

"You can't just not clear the roads," Angier said. "We don't make snow and ice removal fit our budget; we make our budget fit snow and ice removal."

Highs on Thursday and Friday are forecast to reach and exceed the freezing mark, but forecasters said another round of winter precipitation could reach the state by early Friday.

Dry weather and partly cloudy skies could make parts of the state seem downright balmy as temperatures reach the 40s and 50s.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.