More than $2 million in public highway money has been spent clearing ice from Texas roads to keep traffic moving in a state slapped by a vicious ice storm nine days ago, a state transportation official said Friday.“Texas was hit with an immense winter storm, almost unprecedented in the magnitude in which it impacted North Texas,” state Transportation Department spokesman Bob Kaufman said. “The area with ice requiring treatment was huge, some 850 miles across from El Paso to Texarkana.”Also, damage from the North Texas ice storm has reached at least $30 million in residential insured losses, according to the Insurance Council of Texas. The losses include damage from downed trees and broken pipes as well as other residential damage in greater Dallas-Fort Worth.At the Transportation Department, more than a third of the cost went toward clearing highways in Dallas-Fort Worth. Some neighborhoods had 4 to 6 inches of ice that hardened on the roads during several days of subfreezing temperatures.About 1,700 transportation workers were deployed statewide, including about 500 in North Texas, Kaufman said. Using 1,100 pieces of equipment, they worked in 12-hour shifts to clear roads.As for the insured losses, the preliminary estimate released Thursday does not include damage to vehicles, roads or government property. Council spokesman Mark Hanna said the losses are likely to rise. “It’s going to go higher, but we don’t expect it to go an awful lot higher than that,” he told The Dallas Morning News. The wintry weather that hit North Texas beginning Dec. 5 stranded motorists and closed schools, government offices and businesses. Some closures and power outages lingered into this week as thick ice that had glazed roads slowly melted.Vehicle damage is “a whole different line and something that’s a little harder to put our arms around,” Hanna told the Morning News. “We’re talking about 200 different auto insurance companies in the state of Texas. We have to go to several of them to get a feel. “But the damage isn’t going to be as high as residential,” he said. The costs to government aren’t quite so substantial. Dallas County spent $300,000 to $400,000 to battle slick roads, according to conservative estimates from County Judge Clay Jenkins. While sanding and salting roads represented a huge undertaking, he said, the biggest cost came from closing offices, including the court system. That resulted in lost productivity of about $1.5 million, he said. In Tarrant County, meanwhile, weather-related costs came to $500,000, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said.The Fort Worth City Council was told that the city had spent $200,000 on ice removal through Tuesday morning. That does not include overtime for police and fire employees.Officials in Collin and Denton counties said they’re still calculating their expenses. This report includes material from The Dallas Morning News and The Associated Press.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson