Texas ice storm could rival 2011 Super Bowl snow

Slow going for Denver commuters with icy highways (I-25 seen here) and temps hitting -15. The same storm system is headed to Texas, the second-largest state in the Union. .  Credit: CNN/Sara Weisfeldt

BETSY BLANEY, Associated Press

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — The impacts of an ice storm that was moving into North Texas late Thursday could be worse than the snowfalls in the days leading up to the Super Bowl two years ago.

National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy in Fort Worth said the half-inch of freezing rain expected to hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area could also cause power outages in addition to glazing roadways.

“The one big wild card could be ice on tree limbs, purely ice,” he said. “That would be my biggest fear: power outages.”

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Oncor, the energy company that serves about 10 million households across the state of Texas, was preparing for possible outages in North and Central Texas. At a facility in Lancaster, crews prepared backup transformers should bad weather cause mass power outages.

“They can take all the pre-emptive steps they want,” Murphy said. “The question would be: How quickly can they get out to access” outages?

The half-inch of freezing rain forecast for Dallas-Fort Worth is about the liquid equivalent of the snow that fell over three days in the week leading up to the 2011 Super Bowl played in Arlington. The freezing rain will fall for as long as nine hours, Murphy said. In 2011, the 3 inches of snow that fell Feb. 1-4 came over three days.

The city of Dallas and the North Texas Tollway Authority were preparing scores of dump trucks to spread sand and de-icing agents along bridges, overpasses and thoroughfares.

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The temperatures across North Texas won’t get above freezing until at least Monday, Murphy said, meaning ice coating roads, bridges and overpasses won’t melt until at least then.

American Airlines and American Eagle canceled nearly 500 flights as the wintry blast swept across much of the U.S. Fort Worth-based American announced the cancellations systemwide in anticipation of deteriorating travel conditions.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines did not cancel any flights Thursday but continued to monitor the worsening weather. A travel advisory was posted on its website warning of the possibility of flight delays, spokeswoman Michelle Agnew said.

Officials with Dallas-based Greyhound Bus Lines Inc. had no immediate reports of cancellations Thursday but advised travelers to check the carrier’s website.

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Motorists across much of West Texas faced slick roadways earlier Thursday as the winter storm brought sleet and freezing rain.

Weather service meteorologist Brad Charboneau in Lubbock said the region’s winter storm advisory called for a quarter-inch of freezing precipitation Thursday. By midmorning a layer of thin ice had coated roads in Lubbock.

“Ice is challenging for everybody,” Charboneau said. “It’s a whole other animal” from snow.

The wintry mix was worse in areas south of Lubbock, including Midland, he said.

The freezing precipitation was expected to transition to snow as the storm moved northeast. The system, which was bringing dramatically colder temperatures across much of the country, was expected to hit Dallas beginning late Thursday.

Snow was falling in areas northwest of Lubbock, which were forecast to get about 2 inches. Lubbock was expected to get about an inch, Charboneau said.

Temperatures in West Texas are expected to stay in the 20s Thursday and Friday.

Traffic along Interstate 27 in Lubbock was moving slowly Thursday, said Leilani Pierce, a manager at Flying J Travel Plaza.

Many truckers had already decided to pull off the interstate, she said. About 40 of the truck stop’s 76 spaces were occupied by midmorning Thursday but she didn’t know how many of those were because of the weather.

About 70 miles north of Lubbock in Tulia, Pilot Travel Center manager Linda Juarez said snow was just beginning to fall around noon and truckers on I-27 weren’t experiencing much difficulty.

“So far, so good,” she said. “Right now they can do what they want.”


Associated Press videojournalist John Mone and reporter Dave Warren in Dallas contributed to this repor