Freezing drizzle coats North Texas streets with treacherous ice

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Dozens of wrecks, including one that killed a teen-age girl south of Justin, were reported Monday evening in North Texas as freezing drizzle coated surfaces with a thin but treacherous layer of ice.

State troopers believe icy pavement contributed to the fatal wreck involving a 16-year-old student at Northwest High School. Her name was not immediately available.

The volume of wrecks throughout the region added further proof of the danger.

There was a 20-car pileup about 10 p.m. at northbound North Collins Street and Green Oaks Boulevard in north Arlington, police said via social media. “Avoid area,” they said.

Ten minutes earlier, Arlington police “tweeted” they were already “working multiple crashes due to icy roads,” including one on Division Street, which was closed at Texas 360 in east Arlington. Also, westbound Interstate 20 was closed at Green Oaks Boulevard on the south side.

A Star-Telegram reporter who was leaving an assignment at UT Arlington reported traffic on westbound Interstate 30 at a standstill at 11 p.m. because of a wreck near Eastchase Parkway in Fort Worth.

Fort Worth firefighters also took to social media to report “two units” were involved in a wreck. No firefighters were hurt, but they did ask for prayers for a Dallas firefighter. He died in a fall from a bridge in that city, according to Arlington police on Twitter.

Engineer Tim Hardeman, a fire department spokesman in Fort Worth, said everyone involved in public safety had their hands full.

“I don’t have all the details,” he said. “We had a lot of calls come in, including the fatality wreck involving the student from Northwest High School.

“I think it’s safe to assume they were weather-related. It started drizzling [early], and it was already below freezing then.”

The fatal wreck near Justin happened about 5:30 p.m. on Farm Road 156 south of Texas 114 in southwest Denton County.

Trooper Sgt. Lonny Haschel, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety in North Texas, said a Ford pickup “lost control on the slick roadway and struck the Ford Contour” driven by the 16-year-old Northwest student.

The name of the girl who died was not released Monday, pending notification of her family, officials said.

Haschel said that highway patrol troopers in Wise County were “working a lot of wrecks due to icy conditions on bridges and overpasses up there.”

The National Weather Service in Fort Worth issued a freezing rain advisory Monday afternoon that remains in effect through 6 p.m. Tuesday for North Texas and Central Texas, the weather service said.

Freezing rain happens when moisture falls as a liquid but freezes into glaze when it hits the ground, meteorologists said. The weather service issues a freezing rain advisory when either freezing rain or freezing drizzle is in the forecast.

The thing to watch Tuesday, however, is freezing drizzle, which compared with freezing rain is “splitting hairs,” said Eric Martello, weather service meteorologist in Fort Worth.

Small amounts of either one can cause significant travel problems, Martello said.

“For Tuesday morning, basically it will be the same type of thing,” Martello said. “Less-traveled areas and the elevated bridges — those are the ones that tend to be the most slick.”

According to the forecast for early Tuesday, “Light ice accumulations from a trace to a few hundredths of an inch are possible, mainly on elevated surfaces, bridges and overpasses, but some secondary roads may develop slick spots.

“A wintry mix of light rain, freezing drizzle, light sleet and light snow is expected Tuesday and Tuesday evening.”

The wet, icy weather is the result of a modified arctic front that arrived in North Texas on Sunday afternoon. The moisture needed for the freezing rain has been rolling in from both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, Martello said.

The high temperature Monday in Fort Worth was 36 at 3:07 a.m., and the low was 30 about 6 p.m., according to the weather service.

Tuesday’s forecast is for a 40 percent chance of a wintry mix, both day and night, with a high about 37 and a low about 26.

On Wednesday, however, North Texans should get a break with mostly sunny skies and a daytime high of 49 degrees.

Morning temperatures for the rest of the week will be in the mid-30s and upper 40s. High temperatures will get into the 60s on Thursday, the weather service said.

On Friday, Valentine’s Day, the forecast is for mostly sunny skies with highs in the upper 60s.

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

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