County recovering from frozen 2021
The Valentine’s Day winter storm of 2021 will long be remembered in Sequoyah County as a time of frigid temperatures, business and agency closings, virtual classroom instruction, and a time of rolling power outages and sled shortages.
After nearly a week of enduring freezing temperatures after snow began falling Sunday with the lowest being at minus 10 degrees on Feb. 16, the sun was shining Thursday morning giving hope to many that Sequoyah County had survived one of the coldest winter storms it has not seen for some time.
Steve Rutherford, Sequoyah County Management director, said although there was a total accumulation of five to six inches of snow across the county, maybe more in some areas, the temperatures were mainly what brought the county to standstill.
Rutherford said on Feb. 14 when snow and temperatures began falling, the low was at 5 degrees fahrenheit. The following day, the low was at 4 degrees before going into the negative, but by Thursday, mid-morning, temperatures were at 23 degrees, Rutherford said.
Rutherford announced throughout the week the courthouse would remain closed.
In addition to the courthouse, the Sallisaw, Roland, Muldrow, Vian and Gore SAC Nutrition Centers, and other agencies and businesses were closed and schools throughout the county either took snow days or went to virtual learning.
Jim Rogers, Sequoyah County Commissioner for Dist. 3 and chairman of the board, said he and the other two commissioners Ray Watts (Dist. 1) and Beau Burlison (Dist. 2) decided it would be best to keep the courthouse closed from Monday through Thursday. He was uncertain if the courthouse would be open Friday but said the weekly commissioners meeting would probably be held Monday.
“We just thought it would be a lot safer for everyone. Although the courthouse has been closed, we were and still are working,” Rogers said Thursday.
Rogers said maintenance crews from all three county barns have been out all week attempting to grade the county roads.
“Our biggest struggle has been the temperatures. Normally, our blades can scrape the top layer of snow but with the temperatures at the freezing mark, our graders were just turning our roads into a skating rinks,” Rogers said.
Rogers said he welcomed the sun Thursday which would help clear the roads. He said the state roads had been sanded and salted and were in “pretty good shape and drive-able.”
Although Sallisaw experienced one rolling blackout Tuesday morning, Keith Skelton, Sallisaw City Manager said Thursday there would be no more as far as he knew.
“Our SPP had reached Level 3 but as of Thursday we were at Level 1. We believe it will fall even lower than that now,” Skelton said.
The south end of Sallisaw experienced a controlled power outage Tuesday morning for about 70 to 80 minutes. Planned outages began taking place throughout the state after the region’s grid operator reported a shortage of generating capacity, according to the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) which controls generation and transmission in a 14-state area including Oklahoma.
“We only had that one to deal with and normally, when we experience a power outage here, it doesn’t last that long,” Skelton said.
“We had short notice but we had already been in contact with the hospital and nursing homes to be prepared and to keep their generators operating and make arrangements in the case of a major or prolonged blackout.”
While many residents in Oklahoma and many in Texas have been dealing with major power outages, Skelton said Sallisaw was fortunate there was only one and once power was restored, everything went smoothly.
“I just want everyone to know we are a Level 1 and everything is stable,” Skelton said Thursday.
Schools which were closed this past week included Brushy. Distance learning for Thursday and Friday were Belfonte, Central, Gans, Liberty, Marble City, Muldrow, Roland, Sallisaw, and Webbers Falls. Gore went into virtual instruction Thursday and CASC in Poteau and Sallisaw also went to virtual learning Thursday.
Monday, AOG sent out letters to all Class II customers, mainly businesses, the company was facing “extraordinary constraint” on natural gas supply beyond their control and all Class II customers were asked to reduce their natural gas consumption to zero by 6 p.m. that day.
Food chain restaurants such as McDonald’s and Braum’s remained opened. Some businesses including Charlie’s Chicken reported they closed due to weather-related reasons.
Several businesses in Sallisaw either closed or went to shorter hours beginning Monday and some told customers they closed due to the gas restrictions.
Rugers Grill, one of the more popular restaurants in downtown Sallisaw, posted on their facebook page, they would be closed Wednesday and Thursday.
“Due to weather and gas restrictions we will be closing today,” the owners wrote Wednesday.
“We love serving our community and very proud to be a part of it ! Hopefully we will open Friday. Stay safe and we will see you soon.”
AOG also sent out messages to residents asking to turn down thermostats to 60 degrees before bed and conserve usage of natural gas. AOG stated the curtailment of Class II customers would be in effect until further notice.
While the Valentines Day (week) winter storm of 2021 brought a lot of freezing weather to Sequoyah County than in a long time, young people took advantage of the snow and headed for the hills with their sleds, snow boards or anything they could find for sliding.
But as some reported, no sleds could be found anywhere in Sallisaw by Monday.