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Winter storms relentless

Parts of the U.S. are again digging out from heavy snow and ice.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BALTIMORE | January 22, 2007

Parts of the U.S. are again digging out from heavy snow and ice after yet another winter storm, while more than 80,000 people are still without power from last week's storm.

Snow and ice fell across many southwestern and central states, stretching from Arizona to Missouri. Parts of Interstate 70 were closed in Colorado due to icy conditions, as were roads in many other states. At least 11 deaths were caused by this latest storm, most due to traffic accidents.

Some areas in Arizona and New Mexico received between five and ten inches of snow, with some rare snow falling in southern Arizona into late Sunday and Monday. The National Weather Service said the storm was expected to be worse in New Mexico, it still dropped freezing rain and sleet in some parts of New Mexico and Texas.

The storm also dumped snow on Kansas and Nebraska, and then onto Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland over the weekend as well.

Western Texas and Oklahoma saw between six and ten inches of snow in some areas, with a mixture of sleet and ice elsewhere. Residents in both states were still reeling from strong ice storms that hit earlier last week.

More than 80,000 people remain with power in Oklahoma and Missouri from the earlier ice storm. Missouri saw another inch of ice and four to six inches of snow from this past weekend's storm.

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt requested a federal disaster declaration from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 34 counties to help with agricultural income lost to the severe weather.

Last week's storm killed more than 60 people across the country, and several more people have died since then due to carbon monoxide poisoning. State officials continue to warn residents about safely running generators so that carbon monoxide poisoning is not a risk. At least 100 cases of possible CO poisoning have been reported in Oklahoma alone.

Some shelters remain open in Oklahoma and Missouri, while others are closing down as power is restored. Those churches that held shelters continue serving those in need, though.

"We still have teams out there with chainsaws cutting down trees," said the Rev. John Fream of First Baptist Church in McAlester, Okla. Fream said while his church closed down its American Red Cross shelter Sunday, they are still serving as a food distribution point. "We have teams from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in Oklahoma preparing meals. People can stop by around noon or at dinner to get a hot meal."

He added that the community has pulled together very well to help each other out.

That sentiment was echoed by the Rev. Randy Mitchell of First United Methodist Church in Wagoner, Okla. "This was our first time serving as a shelter, but it was not a huge deal because we're already an active congregation," said Mitchell.

Disaster Early Response Teams from the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church are also being staged to help with debris removal. Mary Beth Foye, disaster response coordinator with Volunteers in Mission for the Oklahoma Conference, said one team is already at work in Muskogee, and four others are ready to help out when the call for help comes from the local agencies.

She added that the state department of emergency management has also asked the conference to touch base with local pastors about homebound residents. "I've been calling pastors in smaller towns to have them make sure they're checking on those residents," said Foye.

All said that this ice storm was the worst the area's seen in many years.


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