Few road problems after record snow, but officials still urging caution

A record foot of snow has fallen on Dallas-Fort Worth, creating a winter wonderland rarely seen around these parts, but also setting up a dangerous few hours of travel.

Light traffic and a lack of regular old ice early Friday meant drivers were seeing relatively few problems getting around.

The biggest problem may be power outages: Oncor said about 206,000 people were without power at 1 p.m. Friday.

And the heavy snow blanketing trees did not seem likely to melt soon as temperatures hovered around freezing, meaning tree limbs would continue to droop further into power lines.

When it does start to melt, the snow may even cause more people to lose power, said Chris Schein, an Oncor spokesman.

The heavy snowfall is believed to have caused the roofs of at least two Fort Worth buildings to collapse Friday, including one at the Rahr & Sons Brewing Company in the city's hospital district.

Engineer Timothy Hardeman, Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman, said firefighters were dispatched at 5:41 a.m. to the brewery's approximately 800-square-foot building, 701 Galveston Ave. No one was inside or injured, he said.

Representatives of the brewery could not be reached for comment.

However, the brewery posted a picture of the damage on its Facebook page Friday afternoon showing a large portion of the roof caved in, joking, "We love the idea of an old-fashioned roof raisin', but our insurance co. might feel a bit differently."

About 10:40 a.m., emergency crews were dispatched to another roof collapse at 10123 Hicks Field Road.

Hardeman said nobody was inside the approximately 4,000-square-foot metal building when the collapse occurred.

Hardeman said the building that collapsed on Hicks Field isn't actually right off Hicks Field Road itself. It's about two miles south of the airfield.

On the roads, plenty of hazards still lurked beneath the ivory crust.

"I would say conditions are inclement and possibly treacherous, but not really because of ice,” said Val Lopez, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation in Fort Worth. “We do have slushy, wet conditions that present challenges on the road.

"As long as people give themselves enough time, and enough braking distances, they should be fine.”

Lopez said his wheels slipped slightly on slush as he drove to work Friday. He noted, however, that area bridges and overpasses have been pre-treated with materials that mitigate icing.

TxDOT crews do have some blading equipment to push away slush, although much of it has already been sent to rural areas in Parker, Wise, Palo Pinto and Jack counties as well as northern Tarrant County, Lopez said.

The official snow total for the 24-hour period from 4 a.m. Thursday to 4 a.m. Friday was 12.5 inches.

Fort Worth police worked 19 accidents between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Friday, according to dispatch records. On a normal day, police generally work 20 to 25 accidents during that time period, police officials have said.

Officers were still working nine accidents at 11:30 a.m. One was marked "major," seven were "minor" and one was a "hit and run."

National Weather Service meteorologists have warned all week that dangerously slippery road conditions would emerge, and they said Friday that they will likely last into this afternoon because snow melt can quickly freeze in temperatures below freezing -- 32 degrees.

It was 35 degrees at 5:30 p.m., but 26 was the expected overnight low. Also, areas of dense freezing fog are possible after 10 p.m., the weather service said.

Therefore, weather service officials warned people not to underestimate the ice hazard, and not just on Friday.

The problem could extend into Saturday, said Eric Martello, weather service meteorologist.

He predicted that snow on the ground could linger for another 24 to 36 hours, leaving a potential for melting and refreezing, especially on elevated surfaces like bridges and overpasses.

“It’s going to be an issue,” he said, “just because we have so much snow. Even if we got above 40 (degrees) today, it probably would not be enough to blast all of it off the roads.

“Usually we get one of these things and it’s 3 inches of snow, it melts, and we’re good to go. But now we’re looking at a whole foot of it.”

Many school districts, organizations and businesses anticipated trouble Thursday as the region was blanketed all day long with big wet flakes. They decided to declare Friday a “snow day” and told students and workers to stay home.

Airlines have canceled more than 200 flights at D/FW Airport, said airport spokesman David Magana.

Flights started heading out around 5:30 a.m. but airlines have been running a fairly limited schedule. Deicing crews have been working on aircraft before they head to the runways but with no more snow, it's not as critical today as it was yesterday.

"The good news is there is no snow right now and looks like all of the snow is out of the forecast right now," Magana said. "We will be able to have much better flying the rest of the day."

Some of the flyovers at the airport that connect the terminals to the main road through the airport were closed this morning as crews worked on clearing them of slush and ice, Magana said.

MedStar responded to 365 emergency medical calls during Thursday's wintry mix, a 40-percent increase in the volume of a typical weekday, officials said.

Of those calls, 54 were car wrecks, 34 were falls and three were cardiac arrests, according to MedStar.

The ambulance company serves several cities in Tarrant County including Fort Worth, Haltom City, Burleson and White Settlement.

MedStar also announced Friday that ambulances would resume regular lights and sirens on emergency medical calls.

Suspending these "hot" calls (the ones with lights and sirens) was intended to "allow crews to travel at speeds appropriate to current weather conditions and reduce associated traffic incidents caused by drivers giving way to the ambulances," according to MedStar.

(Staff writers Andrea Ahles, Deanna Boyd, Nathaniel Jones and Alex Branch contributed to this report.)

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