Ice storm results in 11 traffic deaths

Oklahoma City_Commuters contended with treacherous roads Monday from the southern Plains to the Northeast as a storm spread a coating of ice and freezing rain linked to at least 11 deaths.

Thousands of people had no electricity and airline flights were canceled Monday in Oklahoma. During the weekend, hundreds of flights had been grounded because of the weather.

Ice storm warnings, freezing rain advisories, winter storm watches and winter weather advisories extended along a cold front from Texas to New Hampshire. The wintry weather was expected to continue through midweek.

Oklahoma was especially hard hit, with a quarter-million customers blacked out Monday morning and schools closed across the state. The Highway Patrol discouraged travel for the whole state.

Ice accumulations already a half-inch thick were reported Sunday in parts of Oklahoma and could build up to as much as an inch thick in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, the weather service said.

Most morning flights were canceled at Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport, where two of the three runways were iced over.

Oklahoma utilities said about 300,000 homes and businesses were blacked out Monday, mostly in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas.

There was no way to estimate when power might be restored, said Oklahoma Gas & Electric spokesman Gil Broyles. "It's a changing situation, almost minute by minute," he said.

The Oklahoma City suburb of Jones, a town of 2,500 people, had very low water pressure because there was no electricity to run well pumps, and firefighters said an early morning fire destroyed most of the local high school.

Blackouts affecting thousands of customers also were reported Sunday in parts of Missouri, Illinois and Kansas.

In the Northeast on Monday, many schools across upstate New York were closed or started late because of icy roads. Last Monday, a mixture of snow, rain and sleet closed schools across a large area of upstate New York state.

On ice-covered Interstate 40 west of Okemah, Okla., four people died in "one huge cluster of an accident" that involved 11 vehicles, including a tractor-trailer rig, said Highway Patrol Trooper Betsey Randolph. All 11 vehicles burned, she said.

Seven other people also died on icy Oklahoma roads.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt declared a state of emergency Sunday and activated the National Guard to aid communities affected by the storm.

In Chicago, poor weather and low visibility forced the cancellation of more than 400 flights Sunday at O'Hare International Airport, authorities said. About two dozen flights were canceled at Kansas City International Airport, and 13 were canceled at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis.

A section of Interstate 70 in Missouri's Montgomery County was closed Sunday when a large power line fell across the highway. A nursing home in the county was without power, and its generator didn't work.


Associated Press writers Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City and Cheryl Wittenauer in St. Louis contributed to this report.


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