Texas Storms Overpower The Snowplows

By: From CNN
By: From CNN

TEXAS. OKLAHOMA (CNN) -- The warnings couldn't have been more dire.

"DO NOT TRAVEL," the National Weather Service in Amarillo, Texas, posted on its website, telling residents not to venture out in what it was calling "a crippling, historic blizzard."

The storm dumped snow over the Texas Panhandle at a rate of 2 to 3 inches an hour. Oklahoma also was hit hard, and parts of Kansas and Missouri were under winter storm warnings.

In Woodward, a town in northwest Oklahoma, firefighters were unable to reach a burning house because they ran into 4-foot snow drifts. The snow plow sent to dig them out also became stuck, Matt Lehenbauer, the director of Woodward, said Monday afternoon.

"At this point we can't keep ahead of snowfall rates," he said. "Right now the situation is pretty critical."

At least six calls came in from other stranded motorists, he said.

As of 3:30 this afternoon, 15 inches of snow had fallen in Woodward, the National Weather Service said.

Blizzard warnings were set to expire at midnight across the Texas Panhandle, CNN Meteorologist Sean Morris said. The powerful storm will move northeast through Oklahoma on Monday night, prompting blizzard warnings there.

Blizzard conditions are expected to move into south central Kansas early Tuesday, bringing another round of heavy snow to Wichita, which just experienced record snowfall last week.

As the storm moves into eastern Kansas, winds will die down and whiteout conditions are less likely. However, heavy snow is still forecast with snowfall totals over a foot in some areas of southeast Kansas.

The storm is leaving behind a huge mess in its wake.

Almost all roads in the Texas Panhandle were impassable Monday, and the state Department of Transportation pull virtually all of its snowplows off roads because of whiteout conditions, Texas DOT spokesman Paul Braun said Monday morning.

On its Facebook page, the weather service posted a video of the wind and snow whipping a U.S. flag outside its Amarillo office.

"If after watching the last video you thought you could still get out and travel, well you haven't seen anything yet!" the Facebook post said.

And later, it followed that up with another indication of how bad things were getting.

"Amarillo Airport just recorded a gust of 65knots/75mph! This is truly a historic blizzard!" the second Facebook post said. "Conditions have NOT improved. Please stay inside and do NOT venture out."

By 4:00 today, 19 inches of snow had fallen in Amarillo -- an all-time single day record for February, the weather service said. Monday's accumulation also ranked as the second highest single-day snowfall accumulation ever recorded there, the agency said.

For some, the service's warnings didn't come soon enough.

Emergency crews were having trouble reaching drivers who were caught on the roads, Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Gabriel Medrano said. Cars were in ditches, he said, because drivers couldn't tell where road ended and ditch began.

National Guard units were being sent to help stranded motorists, the Texas DOT said.

CNN iReporter Jason Boyett in Amarillo posted a video showing near-whiteout conditions at 7:40 a.m., and followed that with another showing a drift nearly 3 feet high outside his front door.

"We get high winds and we get big snowstorms, but they're not often combined," Boyett said.

Elsewhere in Amarillo, iReporter Michael Jaison shot video of the windblown snow outside his house. Drifts up to 3 feet high were forming, he said.

"I feel that we will be homebound for several days. There's no signs of the storm slowing down," Jaison said.

Whiteouts were also reported in Oklahoma, where as of 10 a.m. Central time, the state had closed all highways in six counties -- Ellis, Harper, Woodward, Beaver, Texas and Cimarron -- until further notice.

"Roadways and ditches are snow packed with no visibility and are very slick and hazardous. All travel is discouraged," the Oklahoma Department of Transportation said. As much as 16 inches of snow could fall in western areas of the state, the weather service said.

Oklahoma Lt. Governor Todd Lamb declared a state of emergency for 56 of Oklahoma's 77 counties. Visibility was low in Fairview, Oklahoma, midway between the Panhandle and Oklahoma City, said CNN iReporter Brandi Whitacre.

"Right now it is snowing so heavily I can barely see down our driveway, which is 100 yards or so. It is coming down," said Whitacre, who added that'd she'd lost satellite TV service and was experiencing intermittent power outages.

The blizzard is the second major winter storm to hammer the region in a week.

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