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10 inches of snow possible in Fort Worth

It's really piling up now -- 6 to 9 inches of snow in parts of Fort Worth -- and more is expected.

The falling wet snow forced early school closures and power outages in North Texas.

As it kept falling, thoughts turned to the Friday morning commute, with the National Weather Service now projecting dangerous road conditions as the slushy snow turns to ice with the overnight drop in temperature.Temperatures Friday morning are expected to drop as low as the upper-20s.

The weather service extended a winter storm warning until 6 a.m. Friday.

The snowfall was exceeding even the updated predictions from the afternoon. Weather service officials at that time issued a winter storm warning that called for up to 8 inches of snow.

"In a few spots, we could see ... even higher," Bill Bunting, weather service meteorologist, said earlier. "Alliance (Airport) already has 5."

Indeed, by Thursday evening, up to 9 inches was reported from Denton and Alliance to Weatherford, and west to Possum Kingdom Lake, the weather service said. It said two to three more inches is possible before the snow tapers off late this evening.

The winter storm warning came as forecasters upgraded their snowfall predictions well beyond what fell over the region on Christmas Eve - 3 inches.

The greater amount of snowfall means road hazards are more likely, although no major delays were reported Thursday.

But meteorologists said that would change as accumulated snow chills surfaces, making them susceptible to icing as the temperature drops below freezing. They said travel Friday could be hazardous, maybe even impossible.

"As the event unfolds we will get more and more snow and I think it will be quite a bit," Bunting said.

Bunting noted that the current snowfall is not accompanied by strong winds, so there won't be major snow drifts like on Christmas Eve, when gusts howled.

Large snowflakes fell all day Thursday -- straight down and unfettered by wind.

The strong upper-level storm system from off the Baja Peninsula of Mexico moved east toward Texas overnight.

It began producing snow at about 3 a.m. Thursday in Fort Worth and the Tarrant County area. The areas west and northwest of Tarrant County were also put under a winter storm warning.

No major icing was detected Thursday on the 2,100 bridges and overpasses in Tarrant County, but highway officials were preparing for battle.

"Right now it's lots of slush and snow, but no ice," said Val Lopez, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation office in Fort Worth. "But we'll be monitoring bridge decks very closely and working 12-hour shifts until this gets better."

The high reached 32 degrees Thursday and the overnight low is expected to be 28 degrees, the weather service said. Earlier predictions put the high at 35 degrees.

But the abundant snow raised the possibility of super-chilled surfaces, which had road crews and public safety officials preparing for ice.

They urged motorists to do the same. "Extreme caution" was recommended, but motorists were also advised to leave plenty of space between their vehicles and others ahead of them.

Fort Worth police were working 25 accidents at 2 p.m., according to dispatch records.

By 9 a.m. they had already handled 19 accidents, but that was not an unusual number. On a normal day, police generally work 20 to 25 accidents between 7 and 10 a.m., said Sgt. Pedro Criado, police spokesman.

From midnight to noon Thursday, ambulances responded to 17 traffic accidents, said Lara Kohl, a MedStar spokeswoman. An ambulance was also involved in a minor wreck when it slid off a road, but no one was hurt, Kohl said.

The company temporarily suspended all "lights and siren" responses to emergency medical calls, Kohl said.

"Suspension of these 'hot' responses will allow crews to travel at speeds appropriate to current weather conditions and reduce associated traffic incidents caused by drivers giving way to the ambulances," she explained.

"Based on predicted weather and temperatures, we anticipate the suspension to remain in effect for at least 12 hours."

Texas Christian University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and Weatherford College closed their campuses Thursday because of the winter weather. TCU said it would remain closed Friday.

Some local school district closed early. To the northwest the Decatur, Bridgeport, Boyd and Paradise schools opened at 10 a.m., and schools in Denton, Lewisville, Aledo, Weatherford, Alvord, Poolville and Peaster closed for the day.

The city of Keller canceled its Municipal Court. Keller city offices were open, however.

About 350 flights were canceled at DFW Airport as of late this afternoon, said David Magaña, airport spokesman. He recommended that travelers preparing to fly check ahead and to go to the airport's Web site at dfwairport.com for flight information.

Friday will be mostly cloudy with a high near 48, the weather service said. Saturday will warm to about 54 degrees under mostly sunny skies.

There is a 20 percent chance of showers Saturday night, but Sunday, Valentine's Day, will be mostly sunny with a high near 47, the weather service said.

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