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Winter Nightmare for Southern Plains

December 26, 2000

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Snow and ice glazed roads and coated tree limbs across the southern Plains on Tuesday, knocking out power to more than 300,000 homes and businesses and grounding hundreds of flights.

Arkansas National Guardsmen were sent out in Humvees to rescue motorists stranded on slippery highways during the second huge ice storm to hit the state in two weeks.

``The southwest corner is just bloodied,″ said Jennifer Gordon, a spokeswoman for the state Emergency Management Department. ``Roads are like skating rinks. It’s just catastrophic.″

Four traffic deaths were blamed on the storm in New Mexico, and Oklahoma had three deaths.

Several communities opened shelters across southern Arkansas after more than 100,000 homes and businesses lost electricity because of ice-heavy limbs falling on power lines.

``Going to sleep last night you could hear trees popping all over the woods,″ said Billy Ray McKelvey, managing editor of the De Queen Daily Citizen newspaper, which was unable to publish a Tuesday issue.

Across Arkansas, stuck and abandoned vehicles hampered efforts to clear roads.

Texas authorities closed some highways. ``We can’t salt the roads fast enough,″ said Garza County, Texas, deputy constable Cliff Laws.

All three runways were closed at the Little Rock, where flights had been halted beginning late Monday because of half an inch of ice.

People waited in lines at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, where most flights were canceled.

``We came for the holidays and now we’re never leaving,″ said Gregg Tiven, 22, who waited with his girlfriend for a flight home to New York City.

American Airlines canceled more than 700 flights at Dallas-Fort Worth because of weather problems elsewhere.

About 122,500 customers were without power Tuesday in Oklahoma. More than 60,000 customers had no electricity in northeastern Texas, and some 34,000 customers were in the dark in northeastern Louisiana.

In Oklahoma’s rural Grady County, Ronald Goeller, 66, fired up a propane stove for heat after his power went out.

``I’ve got two or three neighbors who are older than me and the only heat they’ve got is electric heat,″ he said.

In Oklahoma, nonessential state employees were told to stay home.

The storm dumped up to 14 inches of snow on parts of New Mexico, and travelers along Interstate 40 east of Albuquerque filled motel rooms that normally would have sat empty Christmas night.

``I don’t blame them because the freeway is nasty,″ Les Huffman, a desk clerk at the Days Inn motel in Moriarty.


On the Net:

National Weather Service: http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov/iwin/graphicsversion/bigmain.html

Weather Channel: http://www.weather.com

Texas roads: http://www.dot.state.tx.us/hcr/main.htm

Arkansas roads: http://www.ahtd.state.ar.us/roads.htm

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