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Oklahoma Ice Storm Leaves 300,000 Without Power

An abnormally early but powerful ice storm has crippled large swaths of Oklahoma, causing and toppling thousands of trees.

The mix of rain, snow, sleet, freezing rain and gusty winds, which first struck on Monday night, caught public utility companies unprepared for the massive power losses. And restoring service remains difficult as weather forecasts indicate more freezing rain will continue to batter the state through Wednesday, causing even greater damage.

"Additional weight on tree limbs caused by ice accumulating on leaves has resulted in severe tree damage and limbs coming into contact with energized lines," Public Service Company of Oklahoma officials said in a statement Tuesday.

They added: "Due to continued ice, sleet, freezing rain and high winds, we're unable to provide specific information on when service will be restored."

PSO officials said more than 650 workers, including line workers, tree crews and support staff, were dedicated to restoring power safely and as quickly as possible. An additional 385 workers from outside the area are expected to arrive in stages.

Power lines, already sagging under the weight of sometimes 2-inch thick ice casings, continue to crash over homes and other buildings, setting many of them ablaze. The Oklahoma City Fire Department has been issuing updates on new fires since the storm descended on Oklahoma City.

"Numerous house fires, vehicle accidents, smoke investigations, and power lines down. Firefighters working in this report that roads are getting slicker. Slow down, be careful, stay away from downed power lines and anything they are touching!" the department warned residents over Twitter.

People across the state are expressing their shock on social media about how quickly the frigid rain fell over warm surfaces, freezing nearly everything it touched.

One resident even photographed a black and yellow spider dangling from a tree branch and frozen in midair.

Others grabbed tape measures to show how much ice had accumulated on various objects.

One Twitter user remarked on the "wild scenes" in southeast Norman, Okla., where he said he could "hear healthy branches coming down almost every minute." Others posted videos of icicles dangling from road signs.

Few trees were spared from at least some damage in Oklahoma City, including the "Survivor Tree," an American elm at the . The tree, which was undamaged in the 1995 terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, commemorates the 168 people who were killed. A banner on the museum website said it would remain closed until Oct. 29 because of the storm.

"We lost a branch but have propped up others to save them," wrote the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum on Facebook. "We will continue to monitor it 24/7 throughout this historic storm."

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