Some Roads Remain Dangerous; Cold Could Be Life-Threatening

A street in a neighborhood in Hamilton Friday. (Photo courtesy of Colton Rea)

(December 6, 2013) The freezing precipitation that left a coating of ice on bridges, overpasses and road surfaces primarily in western areas of Central Texas has moved out, but in places the ice remains and the temperature combined with the north wind could be deadly.

Even in areas where roads appear to be clear, the bone-chilling cold means that any standing water or slush will refreeze and turn to black ice.

Ice on trees and power lines may also continue to cause problems.

The biggest threat will be from the cold, however.

Lows overnight will range from the single digits to the northwest of the region to the middle 20s in southeastern areas of Central Texas, and wind chill readings will range from minus 10 in the north to the teens in the south by daybreak Saturday.

Temperatures won’t rise above freezing until Sunday afternoon, which means ice will remain on untreated road surfaces through much of the weekend.

Travel could be hazardous particularly along and northwest of a line from Goldthwaite to Hillsboro to Greenville to Paris through Sunday morning.

Along the I-35 corridor in Central Texas, the temperature will fall into the lower 20s overnight with wind chill readings as low as 2 to 7 degrees.

Highs Saturday will be only in the mid-20s and there’s at least a slight chance of light freezing drizzle or freezing rain Saturday afternoon and Saturday night.

Wind chill readings during the day could be as low as 1 to 6 degrees.

Lows overnight Saturday will be in the lower 20s and there’s still a remote chance of more patchy light freezing drizzle Sunday morning.

By Sunday afternoon, however, there should be some sun and temperatures are expected to rise into the lower 40s.

Temple's Office of Emergency Management has activated its warming center plan for homeless or distressed residents.

Warming centers for men will be open from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. through next Thursday at Acacia Ministries at 305 South 18th St. and at Transformation Station at 503 East Central Avenue.

Centers will be opened for women and children, as well, should the need arise.

The City of Killeen has also opened two warming centers.

One at The Boys and Girls Club at 2900 East Elms Road opened Friday at 10 a.m. and will remain open until Monday at 10 a.m.

The second at the Killeen Community Center at 2201 East Veterans Memorial Blvd. will be open from Saturday at noon until Monday at 10 a.m.

Baylor University has hired subcontractors to make sure parking lots and walkways at Floyd Casey Stadium will be safe for football fans ahead of the Baylor-University of Texas game Saturday afternoon, which is sold out and expected to draw a big crowd despite the weather, Facilities Director Tom Hill said.

Fans should "dress as if they are going skiing," he advised.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages most of the state's power grid, says it should be able to meet the demand for electricity during the storm.

But spokeswoman Robbie G. Searcy said ERCOT may ask customers to reduce their usage should there be significant failures at power plants.

Previous Story

A wintry mix of light precipitation was falling Friday morning along and west of Interstate 35, but except for a few bridges and overpasses which had iced over, traffic was moving at a normal pace.

Several thunderstorms also formed as the system pushed through.

A deadly accident on Interstate 35 in Temple had northbound traffic at a standstill and traffic was being diverted at mile marker 303.

The Department of Public Safety was urging caution while driving on bridges, overpasses and elevated roadways from Williamson County to Dallas.

Winter storm watches and advisories have been issued for most of Central Texas as a strong cold front pushes into the region.

The City of Killeen reported some closures early Friday, including the W.S. Young bridge over East Central Texas Expressway.

TxDOT also was sanding bridges on Twin Creeks, Willow Springs, Jasper and two bridges on 201 west of State Highway 195.

In Waco the bridge at U.S. Highway 77 and Interstate 35 was closed due to icing as well as the bridge on MLK Drive.

There were more than 500 customers without electricity in the Waco area, most of them in Robinson, but Oncor reported crews were working to restore power.

At around noon, Oncor was reporting about 430 customers without service in the Waco area.

Oncor reported nearly 267,000 outages in North Texas, most of them in the Dallas area.

Waco Regional Airport was closed to commercial traffic for the day, but some private planes were landing.

The airport in Killeen was open, but the facility manager urged those planning to fly to check with their airline to make sure flights had not been cancelled.

American Airlines and American Eagle canceled nearly 1,000 flights Friday as the ice storm affected air travel system-wide.

American spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan said all of the cancellations Friday were because of bad weather in the Dallas area.

Freezing rain and sleet forced the cancellation of more than 680 airline departures from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and 42 Southwest Airlines departures from Dallas Love Field.

Counties to the west were reporting some icing on roadways, especially on elevated surfaces, early Friday morning.

Perhaps worst among the reports came from Mills County where the sheriff's office reported as much as 2 inches of sleet and snow had accumulated overnight.

The dispatcher said freezing precipitation was continuing to fall heavily at about 4:45 a.m. and had been doing so since midnight.

She said she was not aware of any road closures but bridges and overpasses were freezing rapidly and sanding crews from the Texas Department of Transportation were working feverishly to keep elevated road surfaces passable.

As a result, the Goldthwaite-Hico playoff game was rescheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday in Robinson.

The game was originally scheduled for Friday night in Brownwood, but was delayed and moved because of the icy roads.

The sheriff's office in Coryell County at about 4:30 a.m. Friday reported a light rain that was freezing when it hit the ground and had left elevated roadways out in the county with a glaze of ice.

County Judge John Firth said county offices in Gatesville wo9uld open at 10 a.m.

Lampasas County was reporting a light rain mixed with sleet at about 5 a.m. and the dispatcher said there were some icy spots on roadways.

TxDOT was sanding streets in the city and highways around Lampasas early Friday morning.

In Hamilton County the conditions were much the same, a dispatcher reported.

Bridges and elevated roadways were icing and TxDOT was sanding trouble spots.

In Bosque County the sheriff's office was reporting hazardous driving conditions in several areas.

Bridges and overpasses were iced and there was some icing on roadways, especially in the northern portion of the county.

The dispatcher said travel was not advised until after sunrise.

A steady rain mixed with sleet was falling in Hill County at about 5:30 a.m., making travel hazardous especially on elevated surfaces, the sheriff's office dispatcher said.

She said she was not aware of any road closures but urged caution for anyone out on the roadways.

There were scores of closings and delays throughout the area.

All Department of Public Safety offices in Central Texas were slated to open at 10 a.m., a DPS communications officer said.

Those offices are in McLennan, Hill, Bosque, Freestone, Limestone, Falls, Milam, Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Mills, Lampasas and San Saba counties.

School districts in Waco, Temple, Killeen and Belton were open on a regular schedule Friday, as were classes at Baylor University.

The intense Arctic blast put Central Texas in the deep freeze that will extend over the next several days and freezing rain and sleet could leave ice on roadways as well as on trees and power lines, causing outages.

A winter storm warning went into effect at 6 p.m. Thursday and remained in effect until 6 p.m. Friday that included Mills, San Saba, Hamilton, Bosque and Hill Counties, where freezing rain is expected to begin in the evening and continue through the day Friday, producing ice accumulations of one-quarter to one-half inch.

A winter weather advisory was effective from 6 a.m. Friday until 6 p.m. Friday that included Navarro, Freestone, Lampasas, Coryell, Bell, McLennan, Falls and Limestone Counties, where rain could turn to freezing rain overnight and continue through the day, producing ice accumulations mainly on bridges and overpasses of as much as one-tenth of an inch.

Texas Department of Transportation crews were standing by Thursday to spread sand and a deicing compound on icy road surfaces.

"It is a big deal, but nonetheless this is Texas, we anticipated, we've planned for it. We have the equipment and the material on hand to be able to respond as necessary," said TxDOT spokesman Ken Roberts.

"We will have rotating shifts throughout the weekend until this event is concluded," he said.

Forecasters say conditions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area could be worse than they were for the 2011 Super Bowl in Arlington.

NWS meteorologist Victor Murphy says the freezing rain will fall in the Metroplex for as long as nine hours.

The 3 inches of snow that fell before the Super Bowl in Arlington in 2011 came over three days.

Murphy says ice can prove more problematic than snow and his biggest concern is power outages that could come when ice-coated tree limbs fall on power lines.

The wintry weather threat led American Airlines and American Eagle to cancel nearly 500 flights system-wide Thursday.

Gov. Rick Perry issued an emergency proclamation Thursday and has activated the Texas National Guard to pre-position resources including more than 50 personnel and 20 vehicles in Wichita Falls and Sherman to assist stranded motorists.

Along the I-35 corridor in Central Texas, temperatures will drop into the upper 20s Thursday night and wind chill readings of as low as 16 are possible.

Rain in the evening could turn to freezing rain after midnight.

Rain, light freezing rain or light sleet is possible Friday morning and there's a slight chance of light freezing rain or light sleet Friday afternoon, as temperatures remain at around 30 with wind chill readings as low as 16.

Friday night the temperature will drop into the lower 20s with wind chills as low as 8.

Saturday with be cloudy with a continuing chance of light freeing rain or light sleet that could produce additional icing, temperatures around 30 and wind chill readings as low as 8.

The temperature will drop into the upper 20s Saturday night.

Sunday will be mostly cloudy with a slight chance or freezing rain or light sleet in the morning, but the sun could pop out by afternoon as the temperature rises a little above freezing.

Icy roads were a factor in a number of mostly minor accidents Friday. The 20-year-old driver of this truck lost control of the pickup on a curve Friday morning while driving south on FM 439 near Lake Belton. The pickup rolled five times before coming to rest. The driver wasn’t hurt. (Photo by Rachel Cox)