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2nd wintery blast forecast for OK, KS

Winter storm warnings posted for Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas; Nor'easter predicted for New England.


The lights were slowly coming back on Thursday in Oklahoma and residents were beginning to thaw out after being hit with what has been described as the worst ice storm in the state's history.

Temperatures climbed into the 40s Thursday under partly cloudy skies, but the relief might not last long.

Freezing drizzle turning to snow with accumulations of up to a foot expected near the Oklahoma-Kansas border was forecast throughout the state. Up to 6 inches was forecast for parts of Kansas and Oklahoma, with 7 inches possible in Missouri.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings through Saturday morning for portions of Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.

The number of ice storm-related fatalities climbed to 23, the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner's Office reported. Thirteen people died in auto accidents due to the icy conditions, eight died in house fires caused by alternate heat sources and two died from carbon monoxide poisoning, officials reported.

The state's Department of Health reported that Oklahoma City and Tulsa hospitals were seeing numerous patients with carbon monoxide poisoning.

The number of homes and businesses statewide without electric service dropped to about 331,000 by Friday, down from more than 618,000 three days earlier.

Peter Delaney of Oklahoma Gas & Electric said the utility had 1,600 people working to restore power.

"We have to get as much done as we can get done before the snow comes," he said, referring to the latest forecast.

Crews from several states were helping Oklahoma utility companies restore power following the biggest power outage the state has ever experienced. Utility companies said they hoped to have most power restored within 10 days.

The blackout forced 28 schools in the Oklahoma City area to close for the week and they will not reopen until power is restored. Numerous businesses were also still closed.

The ice storm hit Saturday when an arctic air mass moved into Oklahoma dropping temperatures below freezing. A storm system then moved in on Sunday morning, bringing freezing rain along the I-44 corridor, covering a path about 50 miles wide and 200 miles long. Some areas were covered with up to half an inch of ice, which downed power lines and tree limbs and made travel hazardous.

The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army, working in cooperation with various churches, were providing shelter and food at 29 locations in Oklahoma.

Sam Porter, director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in Oklahoma, said eight chain saw teams - each with eight to 10 people - were removing trees, limbs and other debris from homes. He said so much work needs to be done that he has asked Southern Baptist Disaster Relief groups in other states for assistance. He said he expected about 20 more teams to come to help.

United Methodists and several other denominations were also helping Oklahomans clean up debris and make minor repairs. They expect the task to take several weeks. They were also assisting in Kansas, where more than 100 communities were affected by the storm. More than 100,000 people were without power as of Wednesday afternoon. In Missouri, about 64,000 residents remained without power.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance said it was ready to provide financial and other assistance as presbyteries identify needs. It said two members of the PDA national response team, the Revs. Bob Houser and Paul Reiter, have been in contact with affected presbyteries to assist in their relief and recovery efforts.

After the ice storm passed through Oklahoma, it moved into Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska, contributing to at least 24 deaths and leaving 1 million people without electricity at the height of the storm.

Officials in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma have declared states of emergency. President Bush declared a federal state of emergency in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, clearing the way for federal assistance.

The National Weather Service lifted ice storm warnings for the Midwest and Plains. Freezing rain and winter weather advisories over northern Missouri and western Illinois ended Wednesday. The storm has now shifted to the East Coast, which was hit with sleet, snow and freezing rain. The storm was expected to pummel the area through the weekend, with a powerful Nor'easter hitting the mid-Atlantic to central New England area by Saturday night.

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