Oklahoma light icing event 12/15/16

Dan Robinson

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Jan 14, 2011
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A freezing drizzle / light freezing rain event in Oklahoma City tonight has resulted in at least 81 injuries and 1 fatality:

https://twitter.com/DoughertyJC/status/809586535138021377

Oklahoma has had 15 tornado injuries in 2016.

I did a study between 2008-2010 documenting all media-reported icy road fatalities. In the Plains states, these were always higher than each state's average tornado death counts. Of course, events like Joplin and Moore can spike the tornado fatality counts in individual years, but the averages still remain far below the icing deaths.

http://icyroadsafety.com/icy_road_risk_zones_highest.shtml

Using the news media of course resulted in a low estimate. Subsequent studies have placed the actual death toll at 2 to 3 times the numbers I counted.

I think events like tonight are on the level of a tornado-in-progress, IE, something to tone out a urgent/seriously-worded warning to the public.
 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
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Oct 7, 2008
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I heard some rumblings on social media that this event was "not predicted" or "not foreseeable" or something like that. IMO, if you're an operational forecaster and you think that way, then you failed at your job today. If you're not an operational forecaster, go back and look at morning HRRR forecasts as well as SPC mesoanalysis updates throughout the day. Strong WAA/moisture advection in the low levels with temps flirting with freezing and you don't see possibly frozen precipitation occurring? Wrong.
 
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Reactions: Mike Marz
Aug 9, 2012
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Galesburg, IL
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Using just basic mathematical probabilities and even some common sense, you're chances of being involved in or impacted by a winter weather type accident are far higher than that of a severe convective event/tornado. So it makes sense that the injuries/fatalities numbers are much higher for winter weather events versus tornadoes.

For one thing, the areal space affected by these events is far far greater than those of the typical severe convective events we see during the spring/summer. And especially icing events, its very tough to drive in, even for experienced drivers. Even just a thin glaze of ice or black ice is enough to cause severe travel issues, in most cases the road just looks wet and this is very deceiving for drivers. If the temperature is below freezing and the road looks wet, there is always the possibility of black ice and you should subsequently SLOW DOWN!

It doesn't take a major winter storm or blizzard to cause serious driving issues either, I've noticed over the past many years (in my personal experience), that the minor events are the ones that cause the biggest issues. I think its partly because people are caught off guard. With the higher profile events, people usually are more prone to stay home or take extra precautions.
 
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Reactions: Steve Miller
Nov 4, 2008
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Norman, OK
texasstormchasers.com
NWS Norman kept saying 'little impacts expected' up until an hour before they issued a winter weather advisory. I had the unique perspective of not looking over short-term data as I was out working. I certainly didn't expect bridges to ice up based off the forecast I read that morning. Something along the pipeline sure didn't work right, but these things happen from time to time.
 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
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Westminster, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
NWS Norman kept saying 'little impacts expected' up until an hour before they issued a winter weather advisory. I had the unique perspective of not looking over short-term data as I was out working. I certainly didn't expect bridges to ice up based off the forecast I read that morning. Something along the pipeline sure didn't work right, but these things happen from time to time.
It would be nice if there was an NWS OUN employee who was active on this forum to confirm/deny what I'm about to offer, but I don't think there is.

This will sound rather harsh, and if I'm mistaken, someone please correct me and I'll immediately change my opinion. With that said, it seems to me that if the weather doesn't concern severe convective storms or some type of extreme blizzard, then OUN seems not to really put much effort into day-to-day forecasting. It's almost as if they feel they have better things to do. I hope I'm wrong, but that's the impression I get when viewing their AFDs. OUN's AFDs are almost always very limited in content and thought/reasoning.
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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We had our own version of this event in St. Louis on Friday. Our toll is at least 21 injured and 2 fatals, 700+ EMS accident calls just in the metro. All week, guidance had the temps warming rapidly prior to precip onset, but we started the morning significantly cooler. NWS STL did get an advisory out, but the DOTs didn't mobilize in time. I've been doing this since 2004 and it ranks as one of the worst I've seen. Only the January 2014 southern US event (including the Atlanta mess) had things worse/more widespread.

This ZR event was far reaching (all the way to the east coast), and though I have not completed logging all of the reports, the totals might beat the December 23-24, 2008 ZR event which had a media-reported death toll of 49.

Most of you have probably already seen this, but someone involved in a bridge pileup in Baltimore caught a gasoline tanker rolling off of the side at highway speeds:

https://streamable.com/jgle4
 

Max Olson

EF0
Apr 15, 2013
13
30
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Parker, Colorado
I ventured out to Dodge City to document the ice storm with my usual chase partner, David. This is a little documentary style video I just put together of what we saw, I included a little clip of our interview with Mike Umscheid, as well as a ton of footage that we captured over the 3 days we spent there.