In The Know: August 10, 2011

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that several thousand residents across central Oklahoma remained without power yesterday after a Monday thunderstorm brought hurricane-strength winds.  Another round of severe thunderstorms yesterday evening left thousands more OKC metro-area residents in the dark.  Wildfires in Pawnee County destroyed homes and burned through 15,000 acres of land.  Officials are developing a plan to open more cooling stations in Oklahoma City churches.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi announced yesterday that Oklahoma would apply for waivers from federal No Child Left Behind standards.  The House of Representatives introduced a bill that would restore pay to 135 FAA workers in Oklahoma.  Oklahoma City and Tulsa topped a list of American cities with the most dangerous driving records.

An Oklahoma City workforce development project will help workers compete in the green construction economy and reduce energy consumption.  The Oklahoma Water Resources Board reviews recommendations for billions of dollars in upgrades to the state’s drinking and waste water infrastructure over the next 50 years.  In today’s Policy Note, researchers find evidence linking increases in public health spending to declines in preventable deaths.  Today’s Number of the Day is the percent of those arrested for burglary in Oklahoma in 2009 who were under the age of 18.

In The News

OG&E making progress restoring power to central Oklahoma

Several thousand residents across Oklahoma City remain without power after a severe thunderstorm pummeled central Oklahoma Monday night with heavy rain and high winds.  As of 8:20 a.m., about 10,000 customers were without power in the Oklahoma City metro according to OG&E. That total includes about 900 in Midwest City.  Power was lost to the Hefner water treatment plant Monday night but Oklahoma City spokeswoman Debbie Ragan said power was restored by 10:30 p.m.

Read more from NewsOK at and

Winds during thunderstorms powerful as tornado

Winds of up to 96 mph were recorded during Monday night’s thunderstorms. The National Weather Service compared the winds to a tornado or a hurricane.  Straight-line wind speeds recorded Monday at Lahoma in Garfield County were as powerful as an EF-1 tornado and a Category 2 hurricane.  The Oklahoma Mesonet recorded winds at 96 mph during Monday night’s thunderstorm. Wind speeds with EF-1 tornadoes are between 86 and 110 mph, and 95 mph is the highest wind speed in Category 1 hurricanes.  “What we saw yesterday can be more damaging than a weak tornado in many cases,” said forecaster Marc Austin with the National Weather Service in Norman. “You end up with a pretty widespread swatch of wind damage, two to five miles in width or greater.”

Read more from NewsOK at

Power out for some Edmond, Oklahoma City customers

A round of severe thunderstorms moved through central Oklahoma Tuesday night causing power outages around the metro area.  A round of severe thunderstorms moved through central Oklahoma Tuesday night causing power outages around the metro area.  As of 5:45 a.m., Edmond Electric reports about 1,100 customers without power in parts of Edmond. OG&E, which also serves customers in Edmond, reports about 6,700 more customers without power.  There are reports of downed power lines down at Broadway and Waterloo roads.  OG&E reports about 24,000 customers without power in the metro including 9,000 in Piedmont. There are about 6,000 customers in Oklahoma City without power.

Read more from NewsOK at

Pawnee County wildfire aftermath called ‘devastating’

More than 30 fire departments worked on the fires Sunday, and more than 35 battled blazes on Monday with the help of three helicopters, he said.  The area has not experienced such dry conditions since 1954, Randell said.  “The terrain was against us; the conditions were against us,” he said. “We just had nothing working for us. Nothing.”  Dry and hot conditions are still against them, and the wildfire threat hasn’t gone away.  Randell said Tuesday evening that wildfires in Payne County were moving into western Pawnee County.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Cooling stations may open soon in metro Oklahoma City churches

A plan is developing to turn Oklahoma City churches into refuges from the heat, officials said Tuesday.  “We’re working our way through the details,” said Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance. “It should happen within a day or two.”  Twenty-five cooling centers have been operating in metro Oklahoma City locations, such as libraries and YMCA branches, since June 15, Straughan said.  “None of the 25 are saying that they’re full or at capacity or having to turn people away,” he said. “That’s not the issue. The issue is just having as many as we can in as many locations as possible, so people won’t have to worry about transportation. They’ll have one nearby.”

Read more from NewsOK at

Barresi: State would seek No Child Left Behind waiver

State Superintendent Janet Barresi on Tuesday welcomed the chance to go after a waiver to the decade-old No Child Left Behind law and laid out principles she expects the state will use in seeking a waiver later this year.  Barresi said Oklahoma can use the plan announced Monday by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to play a leading role in coming up with a new blueprint for Congress and others to follow.  “Oklahoma will not be backing down in promoting rigorous academic standards,” she said.  “We are about accountability and about transparency. We are about rewarding success.”

Read more from the Tulsa World at

House members introduce bill to secure back pay for furloughed FAA workers

In Oklahoma City, 133 FAA workers were among those furloughed because of a dispute focusing on labor issues and federal subsidies to rural airports. LoBiondo’s bill would authorize U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to pay the employees out of the Aviation Trust Fund.  The Senate last week approved legislation that offered only a temporary fix to get the furloughed workers — and thousands of construction workers on airport projects — back on the job. By mid-September, the House and Senate will have to resolve their disagreements or pass another short-term measure.

Read more from NewsOK at

Tulsa Listed Among Most Dangerous Cities To Drive

Tulsa is one of the most dangerous cities to drive in, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Tulsa came in number 13 on the list.  Oklahoma City ranked number 15.  The NHTSA looked at the number of fatal accidents in cities with a population of 150,000 or more. So far this year, Oklahoma has had 74 deadly traffic accidents.

Read more from NewsOn6 at

Bring It Home Project Means Green Opportunities for Oklahoma

The “Bring It Home Project” is an effort focused on helping Oklahoma communities realize significant savings while helping the environment.  The initiative is a Department of Energy funded grant obtained by the Oklahoma Sustainability Network (OSN). Working with national organizations such as the US Green Building Council, OSN acts as a resource for the improvement of Oklahoma’s economy, energy conservation and environment.  The “Bring It Home” Initiative is the first and only coordinated effort in Oklahoma created to prepare the workforce to compete in the energy smart construction economy of the future and to reduce energy consumption.

Read more from the City Sentinel at

Water board reviews future infrastructure needs

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board was prepared for a lengthy meeting Tuesday, as members gave the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan recommendations, including one related to infrastructure financing, another review.  The board was told that an estimated $37.4 billion will be needed over the next 50 years to finance drinking water infrastructure, and $42.9 billion will be needed to finance wastewater infrastructure. Joe Freeman, chief of the board’s financial assistance division, said there will be a huge gap in the infrastructure needs and the board’s ability to meet those needs.

Read more from OETA at

Quote of the Day

“It rained really hard, but it wasn’t near enough for me,”

Mark Randell, Pawnee County Emergency Management Director

Number of the Day


Percent of those arrested for burglary in Oklahoma in 2009 who were under the age of 18.

Source: OSBI Uniform Crime Report, 2009

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Evidence Links Increases In Public Health Spending To Declines In Preventable Deaths

Public health encompasses a broad array of programs designed to prevent the occurrence of disease and injury within communities. But policy makers have little evidence to draw on when determining the value of investments in these program activities, which currently account for less than 5 percent of US health spending. We examine whether changes in spending by local public health agencies over a thirteen-year period contributed to changes in rates of community mortality from preventable causes of death, including infant mortality and deaths due to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. We found that mortality rates fell between 1.1 percent and 6.9 percent for each 10 percent increase in local public health spending.

Read more from Health Affairs at

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