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North Texas reaches record low temperature

Posted Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
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No more ice. No more snow. But bitter cold lingered into this morning, and people were urged to bundle up and continue to conserve energy in their homes.

The temperature at D/FW Airport, the official reporting station for the National Weather Service in North Texas, had dipped to 15 degrees by 6 a.m., beating the previous record for the date set in 1981 by a degree.

During last week's cold snap, the lowest temperature was 13 on Feb. 2.

Fort Worth police officers had checked homeless camps, encouraging people to get indoors. Area shelters had beds available, said Otis Thornton, Fort Worth's homelessness program director.

The city did not anticipate having to activate an emergency plan to shelter people in community centers, he said.

Toby Owen, executive director of the Presbyterian Night Shelter, credited volunteers and donors for keeping the shelter well-stocked. The shelter was crowded last week, but not at capacity, he said.

Kitchen workers for Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County spent the weekend preparing 15,000 meals that were delivered Monday and Tuesday, said Denise Harris, agency spokeswoman. Ice and snow last week prevented the delivery of meals and halted deliveries again Wednesday.

The meals delivered Monday and Tuesday should get clients through the week if ice or snow lingered, she said.

On East Lancaster Avenue late Wednesday afternoon, Joe Martinez was one of those planning to spend the night outdoors regardless. "It's too crowded [in the shelters], and I don't like rules. I've got enough to stay warm," Martinez said before walking away.

Power watch

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which maintains the power grid for most of Texas, kept the state under a power watch Wednesday and today because electricity usage was expected to break records.

ERCOT was forecasting a peak demand of nearly 57,000 megawatts between 8 and 9 p.m. Wednesday, and more than 58,000 megawatts between 7 and 8 a.m. today. Both would surpass the winter record of 56,334 megawatts set Feb. 2 between 7 and 8 p.m.

"While we project to have enough generation to meet demand, a significant number of generation outages, such as we experienced last week, could change that outlook," ERCOT CEO Trip Doggett said in a news release . "We appreciate your continued support by reducing your energy consumption where possible."

ERCOT is purchasing additional generation capacity for real-time operations. All but 1,764 megawatts of the 7,000 megawatts of generation capacity unavailable last week during the Feb. 2 grid emergency have been restored.

About 800 customers in the Fort Worth Stockyards lost power Wednesday morning for about two hours before power was restored. There were still about 1,000 scattered power outages across the D-FW area Wednesday afternoon, Wright said.

On the lookout for ice

For this morning, Texas Department of Transportation crews planned to continue patrolling Tarrant County-area highways to treat any remaining icy spots.

A convoy of snowplows called into the Metroplex from Lubbock ended up not being needed Wednesday.

"They were waiting for the snow that never happened," department spokesman Val Lopez said.

All major highways in Tarrant County, including Interstate 35W, Texas 121 and Loop 820, were aggressively treated, Lopez said.

Some motorists have expressed concern that highways don't appear to be treated with an ice-melting agent, because there was no sandy residue on the pavement. That's because the agency doesn't use sand in all areas, Lopez said. In some areas, all that's needed is an application of either liquid or granular magnesium chloride.

"The magnesium chloride dilutes, and becomes part of the slush, and that slush doesn't refreeze if it's in high enough concentration," Lopez said.

Most major school districts and universities canceled classes Wednesday. MedStar announced that it would suspend high-speed, lights-and-sirens responses and avoid transporting patients to hospitals outside the service area.

Dallas/Fort Worth Airport reported 220 cancellations, about 24 percent of all planned departures. American Airlines, the biggest operator at the airport, said its operations were back to normal by 2 p.m. Wednesday, said spokesman Tim Smith.

Staff writers Gordon Dickson and Andrea Ahles contributed to this report.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

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