January 9th - January 14th
On Sunday, January 9th, I began looking over weather model data for the threat of snow in Latimer County. At the time, the GFS and Euro weather models were showing that Latimer County could receive a trace of snow as the result of a strong cold front that was going to be moving through the county late Friday night. On the morning of January 12th, the NAM 3KM and NAM models had come into range. Both the NAM 3KM and NAM models were in agreeance with the GFS and Euro models in relation to a winter storm system impacting Latimer County on Saturday. However, that agreeance was with the idea that Latimer County was going to receive a trace of snow, 35mph wind gusts, and low wind chill values. These models continued to agree with each other until 8 PM on January 13th, when new data from short-term models such as the
NAM 3KM, NAM, and HRRR began to come in. These 3 short-term models began to show a different story from what the GFS and Euro models had shown. All three models began to trend more towards a higher impact for the county with snow values totaling near 6” and 7”. With over 11 years of forecasting experience, I took this data with a grain of salt, but began looking for trends with every new model run that came in. On January 14th, data from all models began to be more
consistent with each other, showing that 1 to 2 inches of snow was possible in Latimer County. After decomposing this information, I wrote a status on our Emergency Management Facebook page detailing the potential risks that the county could see in the next 24 hours. This included sharing information about the potential for a strong cold front to move through the area that could bring strong wind gusts, low wind chill values, and snow amounts with a key focus on 1” to 2”. I also chose to give percentages on the chance that Latimer County saw 1” and 2” of snow. Four hours after writing this post the National Weather Service in Tulsa chose to issue a Winter Weather Advisory for the potential of 1 to 3 inches of snow and for blowing snow as a result of that 35mph wind gust threat. Since I am always monitoring NWSChat whether at home or at work, I immediately posted an informative graphic to the Facebook page in an effort to get the needed information out to residents of Latimer County. By doing so, our agency was able to give residents 24 hours to prepare for a potentially dangerous winter weather setup.
On January 15th at 11 AM snow began falling in NE Latimer County. As a result, I began winter weather operations. I have GRLevel3 and Radarscope as well as the capabilities to monitor all of the data needed to do weather operations away from the EOC on marginal days. Cody Woods, my Emergency Management Director, started to perform mobile operations at 3 PM in relation to seeing how the roads were holding up to the deteriorating atmospheric conditions. He drove to Robbers Cave State Park and found bridges to be icing up from the mixture of precipitation and temperatures
dropping. I began my mobile operations at around 3:30 PM driving south into Buffalo Valley to check conditions while Cody checked road conditions in the Gowen area. At 4 PM Cody headed home while I continued to monitor road conditions in the Southern half of Latimer County. At 5:30 PM Cody came out again to do operations. He continued to monitor road conditions in Western Latimer County until 7 PM monitoring US-270 West, Bowers Road, Clonsilla Hill, High Bridge Road, Highway 2 North, and Centerpoint Road posting valuable information onto our social media
pages when needed. At 8:02 PM I pulled off of US-270 between Red Oak and Panola at the cross-section of Rocky Point Road and US-270. By this time road conditions had deteriorated significantly making travel dangerous. I chose to make a video showing current conditions and advised residents in Latimer County to drive slowly if going East
on US-270 towards Poteau as roads were covered in snow and ice. ABC News 8 in Tulsa shared this video to their Facebook page allowing us to reach a larger audience who may have been traveling through the area. During this time I also took snowfall data in Red Oak and confirmed that the town had received one inch of snowfall. This data was sent to the National Weather Service. An hour later at 9:05 PM, I recorded snowfall at Robbers Cave State Park. I was able to confirm that Robbers Cave State Park had received one inch of snowfall and continued to do so for Wilburton, which also received
one inch of snowfall. Towards the end of my night, a call came over the fire repeater of an accident West of Wilburton on US-270 near Shero Ranch. I responded to this accident due to road conditions, however, as I pulled up to the scene it was evident that the driver was fine and had slid off the road. I disconnected from the accident and drove home for the night. Overall, our Emergency Management Agency did a fantastic job covering this winter event as we gave ample amount of time to the residents of Latimer County to become prepared for this snow event. During the event, we performed mobile operations by alerting residents in Latimer County of dangerous road conditions as well as we responded to incidents as they occurred while also reporting snowfall to the National Weather Service.
About the writer: Michael Thornton graduated from Rose State College majoring in Emergency Management. Currently, he is the Director for Tillman County Emergency Management and is an Oklahoma Emergency Management Association member.