Snow and ice blanketed large swaths of the U.S. on Sunday, prompting canceled flights, making driving perilous and reaching into areas as far south as Texas’ Gulf Coast, where snow and sleet were expected overnight.
“Typically, we just don’t have quite this much cold air in place that far south,” said Marc Chenard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, tempertures were plunging into the single digits and records were being broken from over 100 years ago.
With the wintry conditions falling on Valentine’s Day, florists stayed busy even as the snow fell.
In Fort Worth, where it was already icy and snowy, Gordon Boswell Flowers’ general manager said delivery drivers were trying to wrap up before conditions got worse later Sunday afternoon, a very cold and snowy Valentine’s Day.
“It is icy and snowing and they’re calling for more snow,” Cheri Kirkman said.
Despite the weather, she said they still had some people coming in to pick up gifts. “We’ve got plenty all made up, ready to go,” Kirkman said.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area had a covering of snow by Sunday morning, with flakes still falling, and as much as 6 inches (15 centimeters) was forecast.
Most school districts are closed Monday for Presidents’ Day, including Fort Worth and Arlington, and several are also planning for virtual learning on Tuesday as well.
The weather was affecting operations at airports across the area, with more than 760 flights canceled at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, and at Dallas Love Field most of the nearly 200 flights for Southwest Airlines, the airport’s main carrier, were canceled.
American Airlines said about 345 of their flights were canceled at DFW Airport, its hub, by early Sunday afternoon. The airline said the storm was also affecting their flights across the region, with operations reduced and canceled at airports across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Officials were discouraging travel in the wintry conditions. By early Sunday afternoon, the Texas Highway Patrol had reported several multi-car pileups in West Texas, including one that involved 25 vehicles and shut down a portion of Interstate 20 westbound.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued a disaster declaration for all of the state’s 254 counties, warned on Saturday: “All of Texas is facing an extremely dangerous winter storm.”
The storm has prompted officials in Houston, where temperatures were in the 70s (20s Celsius) earlier this week, to advise residents to prepare for power outages and hazardous roads that could be similar to those experienced in the wake of a Category 5 hurricane.
As rain fell Sunday in the Houston area, the temperature hovered near freezing. “This rain will be transitioning over to just freezing rain, sleet and snow during the overnight through early morning hours tomorrow,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Josh Lichter.
Chenard said significant ice and up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of snow were expected across parts of the southern Plains into Monday.
Winter weather conditions are affecting large portions of the U.S., but it is rare for them to extend so far south, Chenard said.
Abbott, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson have each activated National Guard units to assist state agencies with tasks including rescuing stranded drivers.
In a statement Sunday night, President Joe Biden also declared an emergency in Texas and ordered federal assistance to aid state and local response efforts. The declaration allows the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide assistance, equipment and resources to those affected by the storm.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said a portion of the Turner Turnpike was shut down due to a mutli-vehicle accident, while the Oklahoma Department of Transportation said the southern corridor of Interstate 35 was mostly snow packed in the left lane and conditions were expected to deteriorate.
The National Weather Service said Sunday that the forecast through early Tuesday calls for 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of snow in central Oklahoma, and 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) in an area extending from eastern Texas to the Ohio Valley in the Northeast.
Here are some recommendations from various agencies:
The Public Utility Commission of Texas on Sunday echoed a call from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas for electricity conservation. Narrow margins between cold-driven demand and the supply of available power across the state are expected to occur periodically through Tuesday.
“The lowest temperatures Texas has seen in decades necessitate a shared response across the state, from households to factories,” said Chairman DeAnn Walker. “Along with the tools ERCOT uses to maintain the reliability of the grid, common sense conservation also plays a critical role in our state’s endurance of this challenge.”
ERCOT has called upon power consumers across the grid to reduce their electricity use as much as possible from Sunday, February 14, to Tuesday, February 16.
“This record cold is not only compelling customers to increase their power usage to stay warm, it’s also icing wind turbines and straining our natural-gas powered resources,” said Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea. “With the grid pinched like that, ‘demand response’ in the form of reduced consumption is an essential shared action.”
Household tips for reducing electricity use, include:
- Turning down thermostats to 68-degrees or lower.
- Closing shades and blinds to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.
- Turning off and unplugging non-essential lights and appliances.
- Avoiding use of large appliances (i.e., ovens, washing machines, etc.).
Businesses should also minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible or even consider reducing non-essential production processes.
Grid reliability is ERCOT’s leading responsibility and they have a number of actions at their disposal,” said Commissioner Shelly Botkin. “As the operating reserves shrink, they can also declare an Energy Emergency Alert, a three-level system which progressively employs additional actions to keep the grid stable.”
Customers can access additional power saving tips at PowerToSaveTexas.org. The PUC’s Customer Protection Division is also available to answer customer questions at 1-888-782-8477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to downloading the ERCOT mobile app (on both the Apple Store and Google Play), Texans are advised to bookmark the PUC’s Storm Resources page for helpful advice and features like a statewide outage restoration map.
North Tarrant Express, NTE 35W
All managed lanes are closed. Some general highway lanes on LBJ Express, North Tarrant Express and NTE 35W corridors are open. We urge drivers to stay home if possible. If you must drive, slow down, stay aware of road crews and other vehicles and drive with extreme caution. For additional updates follow us at @TEXpressLanes and @TexpressAlerts.Tarrant County offices closed Tuesday due to extreme weather
All Tarrant County governmental buildings will be closed on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. The Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday is also canceled.
For future weather-related information, please go to www.tarrantcounty.com.
Fort Worth ISD
The Fort Worth ISD will close schools on Tuesday, February 16, and Wednesday, February 17, in response to continuing severe weather, the impact of rolling blackouts on our students and employees, as well as the tremendous demand being placed on our state’s energy resources.
There will be no virtual instruction on either day.
While we had earlier hoped to continue classes remotely, we feel we must change course in response to this historic weather event. We are grateful also that the Texas Education Agency has today announced school districts may apply for a waiver for non-attendance as we experience record freezing temperatures.
Non-exempt (hourly) employees will not report to work but the District will seek to compensate them for these hours through a Board resolution.
Exempt (salaried) employees are being asked to engage in work, but to keep their supervisors informed of their individual situations that may mitigate their ability to connect from home.
“We know that many of our families and employees are without power and others may periodically be without power over the next two days,” said Superintendent Kent P. Scribner. “The District has been in constant contact with the National Weather Service and we understand that the situation continues to worsen. We want to make the best decision for all of our District stakeholders.”
We will announce plans for Thursday, February 18, by 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
Please continue to check www.fwisd.org and FWISD Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updated information.
From the City of Fort Worth:
Due to severe winter weather expected to hit the Fort Worth area starting this weekend and lasting for most of next week, certain City of Fort Worth offices and services may be impacted.
Emergency services will continue as usual. Call 911.
Visit the website to view the latest closures and service adjustments. The site will be updated as new information becomes available.
The city’s Emergency Operations Center is activated and will be continually monitoring conditions and issuing safety updates as necessary.
Associated Press contributed to this report.