Arctic blast brings life to near standstill in Osage County

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Weather conditions for nearly two weeks, beginning Feb. 7 and extending through the morning of Feb. 19, included a mix of very cold temperatures, freezing rain, snow and ice that made transportation and normal activities dangerous. The weather resulted in the postponement or cancellation of some activities, and in public schools choosing to offer instruction virtually rather than in person.

Pawhuska Public Schools offered virtual instruction the past two weeks (Feb. 8-12 and Feb. 15-19), with the exception of Friday, Feb. 12, which was an unused snow day when there were no virtual classes and meals were not delivered.

Additionally, Pawhuska Public Schools announced that regional wrestling competition had been postponed until Feb. 20 and 22, at Blackwell; that basketball district competition had been moved to Tuesday, Feb. 23 at home; and that basketball regional competition had been moved to Thursday, Feb. 25 at home.

Like Pawhuska, Barnsdall Public Schools had virtual classes each of the past two weeks. The Barnsdall school system announced last Friday, Feb. 19, via its Facebook page that plans were being made to resume in-person instruction on Monday, Feb. 22.

“As long as we have no more water line breaks, we’ll see each of your smiling faces Monday morning,” Barnsdall Schools said via Facebook. “It will feel SO good to be back in school!”

Barnsdall Schools had to have plumbing repairs made after water lines at the Early Childhood Center broke, and water lines in parts of the high school froze.

Avant Public Schools, which had virtual classes the past two weeks, announced Friday, Feb. 19, that it would continue virtual classes on Feb. 22. Superintendent Mindy Jo Englett cited the fact that the town of Avant had no water service.

In addition to shutting down in-person school instruction and causing the postponement or cancellation of school athletic events, the cold temperatures and other features of the severe winter weather the past two weeks have made life particularly difficult for persons employed by municipal and county government.

Bill Bruce, utilities director for the city of Pawhuska, explained that he and his crew worked to generate additional electricity to help city electric customers mostly avoid service blackouts. Bruce said the lowest temperature experienced during the period was -15 degrees Fahrenheit.

District 1 County Commissioner Randall Jones, of Pawhuska, said last Thursday that his road workers (of whom there are more than 30) had given up two three-day weekends and had enjoyed a grand total of two days off all month, as they labored to respond to weather conditions.

Jones said it had been so cold that he’d had trouble with motor graders freezing up, leaving road crews to use snow plows instead. The county courthouse had been closed due to weather four days, and an additional day because of the Presidents Day holiday.

Finally, on Friday, Feb. 19, the daytime temperature in Pawhuska broke beyond the freezing mark for the first time in nearly two weeks. By Saturday and Sunday, daytime highs were in the 40s, and daytime temperatures in the 40s and 50s were forecast for this week.