Icy storms sweeping U.S. kill at least 41 in 6 states
By Jim Orso
The International Herald Tribune
Copyright 2007 International Herald Tribune
ST. LOUIS, Missouri — An icy storm has caused the deaths of at least 41 people in six states since Friday, including seven Mexican migrant workers traveling in a van in Oklahoma in search of jobs.
The storm, which has downed countless tree branches and lines and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people, has now expanded its reach from Texas to the Northeast.
The single biggest lost of life took place early Sunday morning in Elk City, Oklahoma, when, the police said, a van carrying 12 people on icy roads crossed into oncoming traffic and collided with a tractor trailer. Immigration officials and local authorities were sorting through the wreckage Monday to learn more about the victims.
''They had to be migrant workers,'' said Lieutenant Rick Weedon of the Oklahoma State Police. The victims were from 16 to 56 years old, the authorities said.
The police said one of the men injured in the van was in the custody of Immigration and Naturalization Service officers, who picked him up Monday at a hotel in Sayre, Oklahoma, not far from the stretch of Interstate 40 where the accident occurred. Two of the other occupants remained hospitalized.
In all, 15 people were killed on Oklahoma roads during a three-day ice storm that moved east early Monday. Five of the fatalities took place in separate accidents on slick highways.
About 120,000 utility customers were without power in Oklahoma, and an additional 100,000 in Missouri, where hundreds of thousands of people lost power in December in a major snowstorm. Utilities in both states said they hoped power would be restored everywhere by Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Army Corps of Engineers dispatched soldiers to deliver 100 emergency generators to the McAlester area of Oklahoma, The Associated Press reported, and 50 generators were being sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Governor Brad Henry of Oklahoma declared most of the state a disaster area and asked President George W. Bush to declare the state a federal disaster emergency because of property damage caused by falling limbs. There was no estimate of the damage.
With a wave of arctic air trailing the storm and expected to push temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 12 Celsius) in some areas, Oklahoma officials were strongly discouraging travel, The Associated Press reported.
Waves of freezing rain, sleet and snow since Friday have been blamed for 17 deaths in Oklahoma, 8 in Missouri, 8 in Iowa, 4 in New York, 3 in Texas and 1 in Maine.
In western and upstate New York on Monday, icy precipitation knocked out power to more than 110,000 utility customers and closed highways, The Associated Press reported.