OKLAHOMA CITY – Utility crews made significant progress Wednesday restoring power to customers without power, while some shelters planned to close their doors more than a week after a devastating ice storm caused the largest power outage in state history.
About 32,000 customers remained without power Wednesday night, most of those in the Oklahoma City area, utility officials reported.
Oklahoma Gas & Electric, the state's largest electric utility, reported about 26,000 without power, while Tulsa-based Public Service Company of Oklahoma reported 2,055 outages. Another 3,500 customers of rural electric cooperatives, mostly in northeastern Oklahoma, and municipal electric systems, remained without power Wednesday.
"Overnight we should see a significant drop in the number without power," said OG&E spokesman Brian Alford. "We believe we are near the point of having power restored to those that can accept power."
Alford said thousands of customers will remain without power because of damage to their meter bases, which is where power lines connect to the home.
"In many cases, that equipment has been pulled away, usually by a tree branch falling across their service line, and that damage needs to be repaired by an electrician before we can restore service."
In Oklahoma City, city officials on Wednesday announced a pilot program with state and federal agencies to repair damaged electric meter bases free for Oklahoma City residents.
The American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma plans to close the doors of its temporary shelter set up at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.
More than 400 people spent the night at the shelter last Friday and Saturday night, but Red Cross spokeswoman Natalie Scott said those numbers have been steadily decreasing as power was restored to more homes. About 150 people spent the night at the shelter Tuesday night, Scott said.
"Luckily, power has been coming back on, and now we're transitioning people to other ways of receiving services," Scott said. "We're not going to leave anybody out in the cold. If there's a need someone has that was caused by this storm, we're definitely going to work to address it."
Alford said most of the more than 2,000 workers from 16 different states that worked to help OG&E restore power will be heading home on Thursday.
Early estimates indicate OG&E incurred about $34 million in storm-related costs, most of which will be passed along to consumers, Alford said. He said preliminary estimates are that the average residential consumer will see an increase of between 30 and 50 cents a month over the next three years.
Meanwhile, more winter weather is in the state's forecast for the next few days.
Beginning Friday night, Oklahoma could see a mix of rain or snow across the northwest portion of the state, but there's little chance for freezing rain, said Chris Sohl, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman.
"It's always possible to get a small band of precipitation that is freezing rain, but most of the precipitation with this front will be snow or rain," Sohl said.
The storm is expected to bring wind gusts of between 25 and 35 mph, which could cause some problems with fragile tree limbs that were damaged in last week's storm, Sohl said.
"For the most part, the winds haven't been too bad the last couple of days, but they will be fairly gusty behind this cold front," he said.