FORT WORTH -- There's snow, which is often a welcome treat in North Texas, and there's ice, which is about as welcome as an IRS audit.
The current ice episode that has seized up much of the region, from the highways and airports to the Super Bowl parties and schools, might well rank among the most memorable ever for the region.
"It's certainly notable both for the temperatures we're seeing and for the amounts of sleet and snow, particularly off to the northwest of Fort Worth," said Dan Huckaby, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "It certainly ranks among the most significant winter events we'll document."
Several drivers have remarked that the roads are as slick as they've ever encountered. They remain that way on Thursday morning. And unlike many snow or ice events, this one is going to prove to be a guest that stays too long. The National Weather Service reports that it may not climb above freezing until Saturday afternoon. There is a 30 percent chance of snow again tonight and a 20 percent chance on Friday, but only a light accumulation is expected.
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It is difficult to compare ice events with snowstorms because precipitation is what is officially measured. Last Feb. 11 and 12, for instance, a dozen inches of snow and more fell on Tarrant County, one for the record books. There were power outages across the region, as well as wrecks and cancellations.
But nobody remembers it for icy roads, only for the beautiful snow. Check your photos from that day. They'll prove it.
Where does February 2011 rank in the pantheon of North Texas' nastiest ice storms? Time will tell, but here are some doozies as competition:
Jan. 13-16, 2007: It was one of the most extensive ice storms ever in Texas, affecting San Antonio, Austin, far West Texas and Dallas-Fort Worth. Close to 20 people were killed in the state during those street-slickened days, and Gov. Rick Perry called out elements of the National Guard to deal with the fallout. Even the Stock Show parade in downtown Fort Worth was canceled.
Feb. 24-27, 2003: Life for everyone but sand truck drivers and emergency personnel screeched to a halt when a vicious storm arrived with thunder, lightning, sleet and some snow. (Sound familiar?) Then, it drizzled most of the next day, topping off the ice with a slick coating. Most of North Texas, and a good bit of Central Texas, remained under 3 to 5 inches of ice for three very long days that paralyzed traffic, airports and schools.
Nov. 25, 1993: The first time wintry precipitation ever fell on Thanksgiving Day in North Texas, and it happened to be freezing rain, sleet and snow during a bitterly cold afternoon. Millions of Americans watched the Dallas Cowboys lose in the final seconds to the Miami Dolphins in a game that at times was so blizzardlike that the yard lines couldn't be seen. The event didn't linger, though. Conditions were improving the next day.
Dec. 29, 1978-Jan. 4, 1979: Anyone who lived in North Texas then can remember this one. It was considered the worst ice storm in Texas in 30 years. Thunderstorms rolled in and dumped freezing rain onto a giant swath of very cold Texas, and immediately the power lines began to give. People went without power for days. Joe Montana had the flu, but he ate some chicken soup and delivered a comeback for the ages in a historic and miserable Cotton Bowl.
Jan. 27, 1949: Freezing rain the previous night turned the city into a haunting scene of tree limbs and power lines drooping under the weight of ice.
Jan. 17-21, 1930: A brutal cold wave followed by several days of freezing rain did major property damage in Fort Worth. This storm is perhaps most significant because Lake Worth froze to the point that cars could drive on it.
Dec. 23-24, 1887: A severe ice storm rocked the area, bringing down trees and telegraph lines. On Christmas Eve, a heavy snow followed. There were no flight cancellations at the airport, though.
Chris Vaughn, 817-390-7547