The Midwest, already shivering under a blanket of snow that has broken records in some areas, was wearily preparing for another blast of wintry weather Friday as a new storm carrying the threat of more snow and ice moved rapidly across the region.
At least 74 deaths have already been reported in nine states in the past week, including 25 in Oklahoma, 14 in Missouri and 12 in Texas. Many of the deaths were caused by car wrecks or carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators.
The new storm began dumping snow in southern New Mexico early Friday morning. By the end of the weekend, it was forecast to have blanketed the entire state again, topping what in many areas has already been record moisture, NBC affiliate KOB-TV reported from Albuquerque.
The storm, the fifth to strike the state in a month, was predicted to pile as much as 14 more inches of snow on the Grant County area. Since Dec. 1, more than twice as much snow has already fallen in Albuquerque than has fallen in Minneapolis.
Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri were also expected to be hit especially hard.
State of emergency in Oklahoma
Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry had already declared a state of emergency after a storm earlier this week left more than 100,000 residents without power. With a new storm bearing down, Henry asked the federal government to declare a federal disaster.
“If it’s a wet snow and heavy snow, it’s going to add to the disaster we’ve already had,” said Ronnie Brigance of McAlester.
Noting the havoc wrought by the week’s earlier storms, his wife, Judy, fretted: “It’s going to be bad if we get one even half as bad as this one.”
Gary Archibald, a meteorologist with NBC WeatherPlus, held out little hope for optimism.
“Oklahoma is definitely looking at the freezing rain and wet snow, and it’s going to be a story for them for at least the next two days,” he said.
NBC affiliate KFOR-TV reported from Oklahoma City that funeral homes in the eastern part of the state were postponing some services and burials because of the lingering ice and cold weather. Not only is the ground too hard to dig, but the roads are too slick for mourners to make it to the gravesites.
The American Red Cross was running short of critical supplies, said Brian Jensen of the relief agency’s Tulsa chapter.
“We’re trying to get people heater meals which are similar to MREs that military uses so they’ve got something in case we can’t get to them,” he said.
Shortage of de-icers, blankets in Texas
In North Texas, several inches of snow was possible in the Wichita Falls area, and the Lubbock area could get a foot or more of snow, NBC affiliate KXAS-TV reported from Dallas.
The state’s reserve of magnesium chloride mix, used to de-ice roadways, was running low even before the new storm was to arrive, and state officials said crews might have to spread old-fashioned sand and salt.
The worst-hit area of the state was in and around El Paso in the far west, where schools, businesses, roads and government offices shut down in advance Friday. Army officials at Fort Bliss, outside El Paso, sent all non-essential personnel home, and some federal court hearings were canceled.
At a downtown plaza where large crowds are usually gathered near bus stops and restaurants, only a few people braved the biting winds.
“We prepared, getting all our winter clothes out, but it’s difficult because the bus is late,” said Alicia Lozano, 62, who kept warm at a bus stop with a jacket, a blue plastic poncho and a purple scarf.
In Austin, meanwhile, the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless began running out of blankets Friday morning, before the new storm had even arrived, NBC affiliate KXAN-TV reported. It asked residents to call in with donations.
In Missouri, thanks for foresight
The areas expected to be hit hardest in Missouri are those least able to handle it, NBC affiliate KSDK-TV reported from St. Louis.
More than 77,000 customers have already been without electricity for a week in southwest Missouri, and forecasters predicted several new inches of snow, possibly mixed with sleet and ice.
Greene County resident Dan Carroll told KSDK that he was grateful for the “overpowering urge” he felt to buy a generator a month ago. The generator, camping gear and the living room fireplace are helping his family, which includes four children ages 1, 3, 10 and 12, make it through the icy weather.
“I see why the pioneers only built one-room houses,” Carroll said. He has not been given an estimate of when his power will return, but he said he suspected it could be another two weeks.
“We’re the very last house on their line,” he said.
NBC News’ Jay Gray reported from Lawton, Okla.
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