Tulsa Paralyzed in the Wake of a 14-inch Snowstorm
New snow blast en route as Tulsa still digging out
The Associated Press, Feb, 8, 2011
TULSA, Okla. — With no more money for a motel, Sandra Barrows was stuck at a Salvation Army shelter, hoping to get a bus ticket out of Tulsa on Tuesday ahead of another blast of snow bearing down on the city.
But after the record 14-inch snowfall that has kept children out of school for at least six days, halted garbage pickup for a time, kept some roads impassable and led police to respond to accidents only if people were injured, the city of 390,000 was fearing the worst.
"You're trapped," Barrows said, "depressed."
The Tulsa area's homeless scrambled for safety in shelters and people who had been trapped inside for several days hunkered back down as the third storm in a week approached. It threatened to dump 10 more inches of snow and bring 30 mph winds to Oklahoma and parts of Texas, Kansas and Arkansas.
Other states hit by last week's blizzard that crippled parts of Oklahoma, the Midwest and New England were still recovering and digging out. Roof and barn collapses were reported across the Northeast, including a dairy farm in upstate New York that expected to lose dozens of cows after the roof caved in last Wednesday night. In New Castle, Ind., a roof collapsed under the weight of snow and ice. And in Vermont, emergency officials were warning residents to make sure their roofs could hold up under the weight of the snow.
Several inches of snow remained unplowed in many Tulsa neighborhoods, and abandoned cars and trucks still littered local roads. As some of the snow melted over the weekend, dozens of water mains broke throughout the city, causing flooding and even more street closures. There was progress, though: Mail delivery and city buses had returned to many neighborhoods, and trash collection began again Monday. Supermarkets that were picked clean earlier had bread, milk and juice on the shelves again.
City workers kept up their 12-hour shifts working to clear the mess from last week's storm. Plows were dispatched to residential neighborhoods to haul away snow, and fire trucks were ordered to drive through neighborhoods to pack down snow. The city, which had been criticized for its response to the storm, also announced that it was bringing in contractors to help speed up snow removal.
Barrows, 47, stayed at a motel for five nights before she ran out of money, She had been on her way from Jay, in northeastern Oklahoma to St. Louis for a possible housekeeping job when she was waylaid by the blizzard last Tuesday. Tulsa has now endured 20.4 inches of snowfall so far this season and could break the record of 25.6 inches racked up in the 1923-1924 season with this week's storm.
With the city at a standstill last week, many people could not travel even in town to the jobs that were keeping them afloat. Shane Vines and Tiffany Woods were also waiting for help at the shelter. Shane's in welding school and was laid off from his food service job last month. Tiffany works at an Applebee's and says she's averaged about $2.13 an hour without tips lately because of the foul weather.
"There was no way to get to work," Woods lamented. "It's been a tough week."
Meals on Wheels of Metro Tulsa provided some help for homebound people who might be affected by Tuesday's storm, delivering a week's worth of food to a couple hundred of the program's most vulnerable residents. Last week, the agency that normally provides more than a thousand meals a day could not deliver any food after Tuesday. Stacey Wilson, director of development and community relations, said employees could not even get to the office until Monday.
Carolyn Smart, a food service worker bundled in a long coat, came to the Salvation Army's Center of Hope shelter seeking assistance on paying some overdue bills. She said she's had to keep her heat high the past couple weeks so her bird and dog wouldn't suffer, and that costs more money than she has right now. She applied for food stamps last month, and is still waiting.
Galen Ingald and his girlfriend, Julie Brown, said they had survived Skid Row in Los Angeles before moving back to Oklahoma — but the difficulties brought about by the series of storms has eclipsed what they went through out West.
"You go without, you have no choice," Brown said. Now, they're just hoping to make ends meet and maybe find work in Louisiana or Florida when the weather allows them to travel again.
Tulsa officials have asked the storm-weary public for patience and downplayed any notion that the city could have done more to respond to the record-setting storm, even as other parts of the state rebounded faster
"I think when people did get out," city spokeswoman Michelle Allen said, "they realized the severity of the snow we received."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.