Roads, airport breaking free of winter storm

Posted Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Rolling task forces cleared more Tarrant County roadways of cobblestone ice Monday evening and forecasters say sunshine will help melt the ice on Tuesday.

An estimated 90 percent of freeways were passable as of Tuesday morning, according to a spokeswoman with the Texas Department of Transportation.

“We should be able to clear all roadways today,” said TxDOT spokeswoman Jodi Hodges.

Road crews should get help from sunshine and temperatures in the mid- to upper-30s, according to the latest weather forecast.

But authorities continued to warn motorists of ice patches on roadways and they advised pedestrians to be cautious on icy parking lots and sidewalks.

“We’re going to have a lot of sunshine today, but the temperatures will still be cold,” said meteorologist Matt Bishop at the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth.

Temperatures were frigid in North Texas on Tuesday morning, hovering around 20 degrees in the DFW area. It was 16 degrees in Denton at 6 a.m.

North Texans will wake up to cold temperatures the rest of the week, but daytime temperatures should reach into the 40s on Wednesday and the rest of the week.

Rain chances return Friday, but forecasters say temperatures will not be below freezing to cause any icing of roadways.

By Monday afternoon, North Texas was getting back to some normal routines.

DFW Airport officials reported that all operations were “running normally” by 5 p.m. A few cancellations were expected for Tuesday, but most flight schedules were returning to normal.

Temperatures climbed above freezing at 11 a.m. Monday, but only barely: It reached 33 and was still there at 8 p.m., said Jason Dunn, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office.

“We didn’t get a lot of sun today, but there is some melting going on,” Dunn said. “It will continue to get better.”

While most school districts in Tarrant County were closed on Monday, they are taking different approaches for Tuesday. Fort Worth and Birdville announced they will start two hours late. Keller and Carroll will remain closed, and other districts were waiting to check conditions Tuesday morning before making a decision.

The University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Christian University announced they would open with normal schedules on Tuesday. The University of North Texas will remain closed.

Fort Worth and Tarrant County offices will open as usual. Jurors do not have to arrive until 10:30 a.m., a county spokesman said.

Ice breakers

During the day Monday, “rolling task forces” used large blades mounted on road graders to clear “cobblestone” ice from highways, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation said.

Law enforcement officers stopped traffic wherever the crews were working, and traffic backed up behind them.

The crews took a break at the evening rush hour — rush being an overstatement in this case — but resumed work during the evening, TxDOT’s Hodges said.

“We’ll keep blading until temperatures get below freezing, and the ice gets so hard and it’s not effective,” Hodges said Monday evening. “For bridges that they don’t fully blade today, they will be back out there tomorrow.”

Crews were to work throughout the night, Hodges said, treating surfaces with salt and sand to help neutralize treacherous icing at trouble spots.

As road conditions eased slightly on Monday, other problems lingered from the deadly ice storm that started Thursday evening, sending temperatures plunging and laying a thick sheet of ice across the region.

In Hood County, County Judge Darrell Cockerham decided to close county offices because ice was sliding off the roof at the justice center. Also, an annex building’s roof was “bowed from the weight of the ice,” the Hood County News reported.

DFW Airport getting back to normal

At DFW Airport, about 350 flights were canceled Monday morning, but 500 departures were scheduled which, according to airport officials, was “about 60 percent” of the airlines’ regular schedules.

Routine flight schedules from the airport were expected for Tuesday, which is about 750 departures, airport officials said in a news release.

“A few cancellations have been announced for [Tuesday] by various airlines,” airport officials said. “Passengers should continue to check with their airlines for the latest flight information.”

Five runways were open Monday morning; a sixth was added later.

Rash of emergencies

MedStar announced that, as of 4 p.m. Monday, ambulances had responded to 1,790 calls since the storm first struck Thursday, and 293 of them appeared directly related to the weather. Included were 119 motor vehicle accidents, 165 falls, and nine cases of exposure to cold.

The total number was about “34 percent above typical medical services volume” for a four-day period, said Matt Zavadsky, MedStar spokesman.

Fort Worth firefighters also noticed a significant uptick in calls Thursday through Sunday.

The fire department normally responds to about 900-1,000 incidents in a four-day stretch, but this time they tallied 1,546 calls, according to a news release.

Oncor Electric Delivery officials said power outages across the Fort Worth and Dallas areas were about 3,500 by Monday evening, down from a peak of more than 270,000 Friday.

“A great amount of progress has been made today,” said Chris Schein, Oncor spokesman. “The weather cooperated and the roads stayed fairly clear.”

Schein noted, however, that some of the people still without power Monday were those whose electrical equipment, like meters, were damaged. He said licensed electricians were needed to repair those items before Oncor could restore power to the homes.

More than 5,000 Oncor personnel, contractors and mutual-assistance partners were working on the outages Monday. Workers came from Florida, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana.

Staff writers Bill Hanna, Andrea Ahles, Max Baker, Steve Campbell, Caty Hirst and Monica S. Nagy contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press.

Bill Miller, 817-390-7684 Twitter: @bill_millerST

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