Snow could greet commuters again Friday morning

02/06/2014 8:04 AM

02/06/2014 9:04 PM

A little snow was expected in North Texas on Thursday morning, but surprise! One to 2 inches fell, delaying the morning commute and upsetting family schedules when schools let out early.

Forecasters don’t want people caught off guard again Friday morning, which has the same snowy-cold potential as Thursday, said Mark Fox, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

Another weather system from the California coast was charging across Arizona Thursday night and was expected to reach North Texas about 6 a.m. Friday.

“We could see more flurries and possible accumulations, about what we saw today, or less,” Fox said.

The snow might not last as long as Thursday’s. It’s expected to let up about 9 a.m., but morning traffic will already be well underway.

On Thursday, snow started falling about 5 a.m. but was soon “blowing,” and that didn’t stop until about 12:30 p.m., Fox said.

Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, the official weather recording station, got 1 inch of snow. Up to 2 inches fell in outlying areas.

“It ended up sticking on the roads a little more than we expected,” Fox said.

And it was cold: The day’s low, reached at 7 a.m., was 17.

Jacksboro without natural gas

The cold, snowy weather came at a bad time for Jacksboro, which lost natural gas service Thursday morning, according to a news release from Texas Gas Service.

A company news release said crews were working to purge gas lines of “liquids” that tainted the Jacksboro gas supply.

City Manager Mike Smith said he was told it might be Saturday “before we’re back up and running.”

Jacksboro’s population is about 4,500, but Smith said he was told that 1,210 of them are Texas Gas Service customers. He did not know the exact number of people without heat, because some might have gas appliances but electric heat.

Jacksboro public schools were without heat Thursday, so they closed early, Smith said.

The gas company sent compressed natural gas trailers to Jacksboro “to help provide natural gas service to the hospital and assisted living facilities,” spokeswoman Christy Penders said in the news release.

“With colder conditions, we are working as quickly and as safely as possible to restore our distribution system in Jacksboro,” Penders said. “We are mobilizing extra crews from around the state of Texas as well as our Oklahoma division, Oklahoma Natural Gas, in an effort to restore natural gas service.”

“Relief centers” were being set up, Penders said.

Other power issues

The operator of the state’s largest electricity grid asked consumers to reduce their power use Thursday night through noon Friday as a precaution.

Electricity use in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which serves about 85 percent of the state’s demand, nearly set a winter record Thursday and could break it today, ERCOT’s director of system operations, Dan Woodfin, said in a release. At the same time, he said, “some generation capacity has become unavailable due to limitations to natural gas supplies.”

ERCOT advised consumers to set thermostats no higher than 68 degrees and to run large appliances like dryers outside the peak periods of 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. Businesses and big commercial customers should shut down or reduce nonessential uses.

Road conditions

Texas Department of Transportation and city road crews were out sanding overpasses and bridges Thursday.

As the storm settled in, many school districts announced that they were closing early, flights were canceled at DFW Airport, and dozens of minor wrecks were reported.

From 6 to 11 a.m., Fort Worth police responded to more than 70 wrecks, said Bill Begley, a city spokesman. Police stopped responding to wrecks unless they involved injuries or blocked roadways, Begley said.

City crews were out early scouting road conditions, he said. Most of the problems were in north and northwest Fort Worth, especially on hills and overpasses.

MedStar spokeswoman Brett Lyle said preliminary reports indicate that the ambulance service was busy Thursday morning and back to normal in the afternoon.

She said it was hard to know Thursday whether the activity was directly related to snowfall, although there was one report of a person slipping on a slick surface. But the crews weren’t taking any chances.

The use of lights and sirens was suspended Thursday “for the sake of the road safety of the patients, crews and community,” she said. Crews also packed sandbags, just in case.

Air travel

At DFW Airport, airlines had reported about 200 departure cancellations by 7 p.m. That’s about 20 percent of Thursday’s departure schedule, airport spokesman David Magana said.

“Numerous delays were reported due to de-icing operations, which can add 20 to 30 minutes to the time of each departure,” Magana said.

The airport spent the day treating airfield surfaces. “DFW deployed its snow-clearing equipment, focusing the efforts on clearing the four primary runways nearest the terminals,” he said.

The airport activated its Irregular Operations Concessions Plan, keeping concessions open “until midnight or until all the flights in their immediate area have departed,” Magana said.

Schools let out early

Many school districts sent students home early on Thursday, and most canceled after-school activities and events.

The Fort Worth district staggered release times. High school students were let out at noon, middle school students at 1:15 p.m. and elementary students at 2:25 p.m.

Friday was already a scheduled day off for Fort Worth students.

The Arlington school district canceled after-school activities. The school board rescheduled Thursday’s meeting to Feb. 13.

Other districts that announced early dismissals include Aledo, Grapevine-Colleyville, Keller, Northwest and Southlake.

The University of Texas at Arlington announced it was closing at 4 p.m.

Fort Worth canceled evening activities at community centers, and the public libraries closed at 2 p.m.

Stock Show goes whole-hog

While things were slowing down at schools, the Fort Worth Stock Show was going strong with the start of the junior steer and barrow shows, the premier events at the annual livestock show.

While the snow made folks drive more carefully, it wasn’t keeping them away.

“The parking lots are full of people showing animals,” said Patsy Malone, who is stationed in the information booth in the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall. “I can’t see that the weather has affected the crowds at all. This is Stock Show weather, after all.”

Firefighters at Station No. 80, which is on the Stock Show grounds, said the temperature at 11:15 a.m. was 18, with a wind chill of 7.

The Stock Show ends Saturday.

It was a cold, cold day

Subfreezing temperatures were reported all over North Texas. At 7 a.m., the temperature was 17 at DFW Airport, with a wind chill of 2. That was the day’s low.

Other temperatures were 12 in Bowie, 14 in Gainesville and 19 in Granbury.

By 4 p.m., the temperature had reached the day’s high of 24.

Forecasters warned that frostbite could occur quickly with the current wind chill readings and that the temperatures could cause exposed pipes to burst.

It should be about 19 on Friday morning, with a daytime high in the lower 30s.

No snow is in the weekend forecast. Temperatures in Tarrant County could be near 60 on Saturday and dip to the upper 40s on Sunday.

Staff writers Andrea Ahles, Terry Evans, Jim Fuquay, Caty Hirst and Diane Smith contributed to this report.

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