Hundreds of thousands of people in Oklahoma are still without power on Wednesday after powerful ice storms destroyed power lines statewide on Monday, creating dangerous conditions on the eve of in-person advance voting scheduled to begin in the ‘State.
According to the Oklahoma Emergency Management Department, some 373,000 households and businesses across the state were still without power as of Wednesday, affecting about 300,000 people in Oklahoma City alone.
David Holt, mayor of Oklahoma City, said he hopes the warmer weather expected on Friday will help melt the ice that had knocked down power lines and downed trees on the city’s roads.
“When you don’t have power, that’s one thing, but when it’s cold, it’s dangerous,” he said on Wednesday. “There’s a chance some won’t have power on the weekend, but at least they’ll be warm.”
Noting that perhaps half of Oklahoma City’s 650,000 residents were still without power on Wednesday, Mr Holt said he had opened a warming facility in the city’s convention center for daytime use and was assessing the options to keep it open at night if necessary.
The city has a location for the early poll – the Oklahoma County Electoral Board near the state capitol – and as of Wednesday morning it had power and is expected to be open to voters on Thursday, Mr. Holt said .
While ice storms of this type are not uncommon during Oklahoma winters, it is unusual to have such a severe one in early fall.
“This storm had a significant impact because our trees had not yet shed their fall foliage, so the ice had a lot more surface to fall on,” said Brian Alford, an Oklahoma Gas spokesperson. & Electric Company, which supplies electricity to Oklahoma City. . “We’re worried about seeing gusts of wind tomorrow that could cause more damage, but it’s at least now above freezing.”
Mr Alford said that although the utility had restored power to 100,000 households and businesses so far, 260,000 were still without power. More than 2,000 employees and contractors were working to restore services, he added.
The Oklahoma State Election Committee said a lack of electricity would not prevent Oklahomans from voting.
“Oklahoma has a paper voting system, which ensures that voting in Oklahoma will continue regardless of whether we have power or not,” said Misha Mohr, spokesperson for the council.
Warming temperatures can cause their own problems. When the weight of the ice is removed from already stressed tree branches, others are expected to break and pull down power lines.
Emergency Management Department spokesperson Keli Cain said further losses were likely as the weather warmed.
“Our electricity suppliers are working hard to recover electricity,” Cain said. “But Mother Nature is only working against them.”