NORMAN — Though the outcome or severity of a winter weather event this Christmas cannot be certain, one guarantee is that Norman will be ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store.
“Based on our current information, there’s a decent chance of snow in Oklahoma, but we’ll be on the edge of things here in Norman,” said Rick Smith of the National Weather Service. “However, this may change 15 times between now and Christmas. Sometimes the computer models all align and the variables remain consistent, but forecasting this event, they’re all over the place.”
Wednesday night and Thursday brought the season’s first real winter chill, and the next few days may bring the season’s first winter precipitation, just in time for holiday travel.
“Given the time of year with high travel, we’re trying to make everyone aware in advance. We’re not currently seeing anything that makes us worry about a major, crippling winter storm, but it just takes a little bit of snow to cause problems,” Smith said. “Christmas afternoon/evening likely won’t just be snow. There could be freezing rain and sleet.”
As with most weather events, Oklahoma has seen everything from almost no precipitation, as in 2011, to heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions such as those of Christmas 2009.
Smith said winter weather prediction is so difficult because even the most minute change in humidity or temperature can mean the difference between cold rain and ice/snow, and these factors often change last-minute.
Though weather conditions are fickle, agencies across Norman can be relied upon to address the needs of the area’s most vulnerable, as they have been for some time.
“For those who are homeless, the Salvation Army is the primary place to go, since they have beds/cots, but we will provide overflow space and our dining room will be open all night for those who just need to get out of the weather,” said April Doshier, of Food and Shelter.
Doshier said area charities have had cold weather precautions in place for almost month.
District 3 County Commissioner Rusty Sullivan said preparations for winter road treatment have been ongoing since earlier this year.
“I start gathering materials like sand in the summer, when it’s 100 degrees outside,” Sullivan said. “Thursday, I made sure we had all the trucks in place and sand is ready. We can respond and mobilize within 30 minutes.”
Sullivan said his major concern is drivers knowing which roads are safest, and he and his road crews prioritize routes based on building accessibility for emergency services, senior centers and schools, in that order. From there, it’s clearing the large grid east/west and north/south based on “major collectors” (high-traffic roads) and “minor collectors” (low-traffic roads).
“During the 2009 Christmas blizzard, we had all our district’s roads cleared within 24 to 36 hours, working 12-hour shifts round-the-clock. It would be nice for our county boys to stay in this Christmas, but we’re prepared and, of course, we’ll do whatever we have to,” Sullivan said.
Doshier said Food and Shelter is well-stocked with winter garments for those in need, but community members can still do their part.
“We ran out of blankets Wednesday night, so blanket donations are always helpful,” Doshier said. “Also, we can always use hot cocoa and coffee drinks to make people more warm/comfortable.”