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Four Deaths Blamed on Snow in Plains

December 24, 2002

A winter storm dumped snow across the southern Plains on Monday, making a mess of roads and muddling air travel. At least four traffic deaths were blamed on the ice and snow.

The National Weather Service posted storm warnings and advisories for the Texas Panhandle and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois. Ten or more inches of snow were expected before the storm moved out of the region Tuesday.

Two people were killed in weather-related traffic accidents in northeastern Oklahoma, one in Osage County and the other in Creek County. Two others died in Kansas.

In Amarillo, Texas, where 5 1/2 inches of snow fell, more than 20 accidents were reported between midnight Sunday and midmorning Monday.

``Mostly a spinning-off-the-road-type of thing,″ said Deputy Don Bouchard of the Potter County Sheriff’s Department. ``Every year, the first major snow catches people off guard in their driving.″

Cars and trucks filled the lot at the Flying J Travel Plaza truck stop in Amarillo Monday night, customer service manager Mary Moody said.

``It’s horrible,″ she said. ``They’re stuck here. Can’t even get home for Christmas.″

Snow caused delays Monday at airports in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Okla., and Springfield-Branson, Mo. In St. Louis, American Airlines was encouraging passengers to change their reservations _ without penalty _ to avoid bad weather expected Monday night and Tuesday.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declared an emergency Monday night in four northwestern counties due to ``extremely hazardous″ roads. Some necessary commercial vehicles were allowed to stay on the roads.

This should be Oklahoma City’s first white Christmas since 1975, said weather service meteorologist David Andra.

``We’ll still have snow on the ground Christmas morning,″ he predicted. ``It will stay slightly below freezing and the snow will probably start melting Christmas Day.″

Meanwhile, thunderstorms pummeled central and eastern Texas. Two tornadoes were reported Monday, including one that destroyed a mobile home between Manor and Elgin in Travis County, about 20 miles east of Austin.

One woman was treated for minor injuries, and several businesses were damaged, Travis County sheriff’s Lt. Mike Liesman said.


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