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Up to 3 inches of snow expected in Tulsa Saturday

Tulsa likely will see more than an inch of snow Saturday for the first time since 2018, forecasters said.

High temperatures are expected to plunge 35 degrees from Friday to Saturday, with north winds 10-20 mph and gusts to 25 mph, and a high of 29.

The Tulsa metro is expected to see 0.5 to 3 inches of snow, while Bartlesville and areas north may have 3 to 5 inches, forecasters said.

Osage, Washington and Pawnee counties were under a winter storm watch through Saturday morning.

The snow is expected to accumulate, despite recent high temperatures in the 60s, said Joe Sellers, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tulsa.

“It really depends on the rate of fall, but we’ve got some really cold air coming in,” he said. “It may be warmer below the (ground) surface, but it’s going to be cold at the surface, and it’s going to accumulate.”

He said a transition from rain to freezing rain and sleet, then snow will also allow wintry precipitation to accumulate on streets and highways.

The last snowfall of an inch or more for Tulsa was Nov. 12, 2018, when 1.6 inches fell, he said.

City of Tulsa officials, meanwhile, said they planned to monitor the weather reports closely as the warmer, wet weather experienced most of Friday was expected to turn to a cold ice/snow mix early Saturday.

“When it starts changing over we probably won’t put anything down right away,” Tim McCorkell, city street maintenance manager, said Friday afternoon.

“But as we monitor that and just before it gets to freezing ... we’ll start applying salt to the roadways, concentrating first on bridges, hills, overpasses and intersections first before moving to arterial streets and city expressways.

“As long as we don’t have a heavy rain, we’ll put salt down to get a barrier on the roadway so when it does turn over to start freezing it won’t adhere to the road.”

McCorkell said the first shift of city street workers would come in about 2 a.m. Saturday.

“They’ll run until noon, and then they will be relieved by our second shift,” said McCorkell. “And that shift will work until the roads are clear.”

He said he hopes this remains a minor winter weather event for Tulsa.

McCorkell said an estimated 40% of his road crew workers have never worked during a significant winter weather event due to turnover and the length of time since the last major event.

“So if it’s a light event, it’s just a plus for them to get used to the roadways,” McCorkell said.

The city will use a variety of resources to clear arterial roads, residential streets and expressways under its jurisdiction.

The city has available:

66 truck-mounted salt spreaders

4 truck-mounted liquid applicator systems

47 truck-mounted snow plows

7 4x4 pickup trucks equipped with snow plows

3 motor graders for use as plows

about 225,000 tons of salt

2 salt brine mixing systems

McCorkell said there were no plans to use brine during this storm.

“The way this system looks, it looks like it’s going to come in with excessive moisture, so we’re not anticipating any brine application at all,” McCorkell said.

“The only thing sand does is give you traction,” McCorkell said.

“It doesn’t help melt the ice at all, but once it goes away you still have the sand on the roadway and that’s still a slick barrier,” he said. “So if you use it over and over, then you are going to have sand at your intersections that could cause you to slide.”

He said the city mixed sand in with its salt during the 2007 ice storm to extend its salt supplies.

He said it cost the city almost a million dollars to clean up the sand from the roadways following that ice storm.

“So rather than spend $1 million on cleanup for sand, we’ll spend $1 million on salt that will dissipate and dry the roads up, and we won’t have that issue.”

Road crews divide the city into 35 routes totaling 1,770 lane-miles.

In addition to arterial roads, the city is responsible for maintaining the Gilcrease Expressway, L.L. Tisdale Expressway and interstate highway on- and off-ramps.

Arterial roads with the highest traffic are cleared first. Once the main streets are cleared, selected residential streets are cleared, depending again on traffic and steepness.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation was looking to stage salt/sand trucks across the Tulsa metro beginning at midnight, said Kenna Mitchell, ODOT spokeswoman.

The agency has more than 25 road-treating trucks in Tulsa County, she said.

Mitchell also said people who need to travel Saturday should download the ODOT phone app, which has a map showing road conditions.

Tulsa averages 2.7 inches of snow in January, 1.8 inches in February and 2.1 inches in March, according to the weather service.

The last measurable snowfall in Tulsa was Nov. 11, when 0.10 inch fell, Sellers said.


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National
Pelosi to send impeachment to Senate for historic trial

WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will take steps next week to transmit the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, ending a three-week standoff but confronting the Senate with only the third trial in U.S. history to remove a chief executive.

In a letter to her Democratic colleagues, Pelosi said Friday she was proud of their “courage and patriotism” and warned that senators now have a choice as they consider the charges of abuse and obstruction against the president.

“In an impeachment trial, every Senator takes an oath to do ‘impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws,’ ” Pelosi wrote. “Every Senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the President or the Constitution.”

The trial could begin next week. The Constitution gives the House the sole power to impeach a president, but the Senate the ability to render a verdict when it convenes as the Court of Impeachment.

Pelosi was particularly upbeat Friday as she strode through the Capitol, despite the mounting pressure on her to quit delaying the trial. Her decision to end the showdown with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not fully bring closure to the question of whether the Senate will consider new witnesses, as some want, shifting pressure on senators to decide.

Trump swiftly signaled his intention of blocking any testimony from John Bolton, the brash former national security adviser who could be a wildcard witness in the trial. Bolton has said he would appear before the Senate if he received a subpoena.

At the same time, a key centrist GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, whose vote is among those most watched, announced Friday she was in discussions with other Republicans on a strategy that would allow the Senate to hear new testimony.

While the rules of Senate trial remain unsettled, the outcome is not. Trump is widely expected to be acquitted of the charges that he abused power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, then obstructed Congress in its investigation. No president has ever been removed by the Senate.

“Ridiculous,” Trump told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham about the speaker’s gambit.

Asked if he would invoke executive privilege to block Bolton’s testimony, Trump said, “Well I think you have to for the sake of the office.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been working closely with the White House on strategy, said Friday afternoon that the Senate is “anxious to get started.”

Republicans have the leverage, with a slim 53-47 Senate majority, if McConnell can keep GOP senators on board with his strategy. So far, they are supportive of modeling the trial after the one used in the last presidential impeachment, of Bill Clinton, 20 years ago. It set out a path for starting the trial and voting on witnesses later.

Despite McConnell’s wishes for a speedy trial, some Republicans in his caucus have indicated that they are open to witnesses. It takes just 51 senators to set the rules, and Democrats have been trying to win over wavering GOP senators to vote with them on hearing new testimony.

“I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement on how to proceed with the trial that will allow the opportunity for witnesses for both the House managers and the President’s counsel if they choose to do so,” Collins said. “It is important that both sides be treated fairly.”

Since the House vote on Dec. 18 to impeach the president, the showdown between Pelosi and McConnell, the two power centers in Congress, has consumed Capitol Hill and scrambled the political dynamics.

The speaker declined to send the articles to the Senate until she knew there would be a fair trial with witness testimony. She also asked McConnell for details on the trial structure so she could decide who to appoint as impeachment managers. McConnell rebuffed all of her demands.

On Friday, Pelosi ended the stalemate by saying she had asked House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler to be prepared to bring to the floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate. She did not announce a date for the House vote.

McConnell indicated Friday the trial would start soon. “We’ll get about it as soon as we can,” he said.

Transmittal of the documents and naming of House impeachment managers are the next steps needed to start the Senate trial. Yet questions remain in the Senate on the scope, format and duration.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is eager to test Senate Republicans, especially those like Collins who are up for re-election in 2020, with votes to compel testimony from Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and others who have so far resisted appearing before Congress.

“Senate Democrats are ready for the trial to begin and will do everything we can to see that the truth comes out,” Schumer said.

Bolton, who was present for several of the internal White House discussions about Ukraine policy that were at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment case, is among the most compelling of four witnesses suggested by Schumer.

The former national security adviser clashed with the president’s Ukraine policy, saying he didn’t want to be part of any “drug deal” being cooked up. He called Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who others have testified was orchestrating an alternative foreign policy outside of official channels, a “grenade” that was going to go off.

Chuck Cooper, an attorney for Bolton, declined to comment.

The House impeached Trump in December on the charge that he abused the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine’s new leader to investigate Democrats, using as leverage $400 million in military assistance for the U.S. ally as it counters Russia at its border. Trump insists he did nothing wrong, but his defiance of the House Democrats’ investigation led to an additional charge of obstruction of Congress.

On a July telephone call with Ukraine’s new president, Trump asked his counterpart to open an investigation into Democrat Joe Biden, who is running for his party’s presidential nomination, and his son Hunter while holding up military aid for Ukraine. A Ukrainian gas company had hired Hunter Biden when his father was vice president and the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.

It’s still unclear who Pelosi will appoint as impeachment managers to prosecute the case in the Senate.

Nadler, D-N.Y., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., will most likely lead the team.

What was more certain is that the group will be more diverse than the 1999 team in Clinton’s trial, who were all male and white. Pelosi is expected to ensure the managers are diverse in gender and race, and also geographically.


Business
Layoffs expected this month at Spirit Aerosystems facilities in Tulsa, McAlester, company announces over levels of Boeing 737 Max production

Spirit AeroSystems announced Friday layoffs of about 2,800 employees at its Wichita, Kansas, facility, adding that smaller workforce reductions are planned later this month at plants in Tulsa and McAlester.

Spirit is taking the move because of the suspension of Boeing 737 Max production and ongoing uncertainty on the pace of production when it does resume.

The company employs about 1,300 people in Tulsa and roughly 300 in McAlester.

Spirit is a significant supplier on the 737 Max program, with its workshare accounting for 70% of the airplane’s structure. This includes the entire fuselage, thrust reversers, engine pylons and wing components. In addition, the Max represents more than 50% of Spirit’s annual revenue.

Before the layoffs, Spirit employed about 13,000 people in Wichita, making it the city’s largest employer.

Spirit has not received notice from Boeing on how long the production suspension will last or what the production rate will be in the future. Spirit believes that, when production resumes, the levels will be lower than previously expected due, in part, to the customer’s need to consume more than 100 Max shipsets currently in storage at Spirit’s facilities.

In addition, Boeing has built several hundred MAX airplanes that haven’t been delivered to customers.

Based on final production rates agreed to with Boeing, Spirit may have to take additional workforce actions in the future.

“The difficult decision announced today is a necessary step given the uncertainty related to both the timing for resuming 737 MAX production and the overall production levels that can be expected following the production suspension,” Tom Gentile, Spirit AeroSystems president and CEO, said in a statement. “We are taking these actions to balance the interests of all of our stakeholders as a result of the grounding of the 737 MAX, while also positioning Spirit to meet future demand.”

Employees will receive compensation for the applicable 60-day notice period. Spirit’s Wichita employees affected by these layoffs will start leaving the company beginning January 22.

Spirit has taken steps to lessen the impact of expected layoffs, transferring some 737 Max employees to other programs where possible. Additionally, Spirit plans to facilitate job fairs with other aerospace companies to help laid-off employees transition to new jobs.


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Gallery: Tulsa International Airport through the years

Gallery: Tulsa International Airport through the years

Local
Gaming compact dispute update: Tribal leaders say money will continue to be sent to state

CATOOSA — The check is in the mail. Or at least it will be soon.

At the quarterly meeting of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes Friday at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, officials with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw and Seminole nations reiterated their stance that Class III gaming compacts automatically renewed on Jan. 1.

Therefore, the state should expect its exclusivity fee payments in the mail soon.

“One thing is clear: the Indian nations of this state meet our obligations, however we need to do that,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “We’re going to send a check like we always would because we’re required to do that. It’s the law. We’ll wait and see what the state of Oklahoma does and go from there, but we are good faith partners. That won’t change, no matter what he (Gov. Kevin Stitt) does with the check.”

Seeking higher exclusivity fees, Stitt has maintained that Oklahoma’s state-tribal gaming compacts expired on Dec. 31, thus making Class III gaming illegal. However, operations have continued into the new year at tribal casinos across Oklahoma, prompting questions from state officials about what to do with those exclusivity fee payments.

As per the current compact, exclusivity fee payments for December are due Jan. 20, while January’s payment is due Feb. 20. Gaming tribes pay between 4% and 10% in exclusivity fees.

Three of the council’s five member tribes are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit pending in the Western District of Oklahoma, seeking a declaration that the compacts automatically renewed.

Hoskin, whose tribe is one of the three plaintiffs, said the Cherokee Nation has not had any new conversations with the state since the lawsuit was filed.

Matthew Morgan, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and the chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, said to his knowledge, there have not been additional compact talks between any gaming tribes and the state since the lawsuit was filed other than conversations between tribal regulators and representatives from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services’ compliance unit.

“We are looking forward to the day when we can move past this and move into more productive discussions,” he said. “This matter is really coloring all other matters of state-tribal relations.”

That color extended to a resolution thanking a former member of Stitt’s Cabinet, as the council unanimously approved a resolution honoring former state Secretary of Native American Affairs Lisa Billy for her public service, including her decision to step down due to the nature of the gaming compact talks.

A citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and a current member of her tribe’s legislature, Billy specifically cited the ongoing gaming compact dispute in her Dec. 23 resignation letter from Stitt’s Cabinet. That letter was partially read aloud by Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby as part of the resolution’s preamble.

“We are the sovereign nations,” Billy wrote. “We are the leaders. God put us here. Here for a purpose and reason. Let our message of unity be mighty and powerful.

“We will continue to move forward. I wish I could have gotten the job completed, but we will continue to move forward.”


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Tribal gaming 101: What you need to know about Oklahoma tribal gaming

Tribal gaming 101: What you need to know about Oklahoma tribal gaming