Icy Storms Kill 66 Across Nine States; Texas, Oklahoma Without Power

A bone-rattling blast of sleet and snow kept Texas and Oklahoma residents shivering in the dark Thursday, while a blizzard north of Los Angeles caused big-rigs to jackknife.

Many Oklahoma schools remained closed Thursday, but Texas students headed back to class as transportation officials reopened roadways closed by ice.

At least 66 storm-related deaths have been reported in nine states since Friday, including 10 in Texas and 23 in Oklahoma.

Much of the brunt of the latest Southern storms was moving east Thursday — but the reprieve may be short-lived. Another barrage was to bring up to 8 inches snow to the Plains by late Friday.

Snow accumulations were light by some other regions' standards — the Dallas area topped out at 3 inches — but hundreds of airline flights were canceled and tens of thousands of electricity customers lost power.

About 69,000 Oklahoma homes and businesses remained without power Thursday.

Hardest hit in Oklahoma was McAlester, where many stores operated on generator power. At the E-Z Mart, store manager Becky Clayton was selling out of soda, water and potato chips. With most restaurants closed, customers also made a run on her deli.

"I was ready for summer before it ever got cold," Clayton said.

Ice coated power lines throughout McAlester, and nearly 1,000 linemen, tree-trimmers and support workers from surrounding states helped with repairs on Wednesday.

Tulsa was running out of salt as 50 spreaders worked on streets near schools and in hilly areas. "Everyone's in the same boat," said Dan Crossland, the city's street maintenance supervisor. "We're scrounging for resources."

In Texas, a 300-mile stretch of Interstate 10 from Fort Stockton to San Antonio reopened Thursday after two days, though officials said slush and icy patches remained.

More than 250 flights were canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Wednesday. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport canceled 102 flights, while San Antonio International Airport canceled 23 morning flights and Houston's two major airports had delays.

A Houston city employee was killed Wednesday when he was hit by a car while helping an accident victim, said Frank Michel, spokesman for Houston Mayor Bill White. "Very tragic," Michel said. "He was attempting to be a good Samaritan and lost his life."

Along with the fatalities in Oklahoma and Texas, the wave of storms was blamed for 11 deaths in Missouri, eight in Iowa, four each in New York and Michigan, three in Arkansas and one each in Maine, Indiana and North Carolina.

Elsewhere in the country, frigid conditions tested even those used to snow and ice. Temperatures in Maine never rose above single digits, and some communities saw dangerous wind chills. It was minus-16 degrees in Caribou.

In New Hampshire, only about 825 of the more than 50,000 homes and businesses that lost power in the ice storm remained without power Thursday, said Martin Murray, a Public Service Company of New Hampshire spokesman.

Freezing rain and snow showers closed some schools or delayed openings Thursday across the Carolinas.

In California, a four-night cold snap wiped out as much as three-quarters of the state's citrus and harmed virtually every other winter crop, from avocados to flowers.

A fast-moving cold storm dropped snow in the mountains above Malibu, left white coats of hail in the city and unleashed a blizzard Wednesday that closed Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles.

Texas citrus growers in the usually balmy Rio Grande Valley also suffered a cold snap, but it wasn't severe enough to damage crops, said John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association.

"The weather's nowhere near cold enough to do anything here," he said, noting that Texas growers might get a small windfall because of the California freeze.