North Texans may not see a record busted Tuesday for the region's snowiest winter ever, but they could face a slushy commute, which had state and municipal road officials on Monday loading sand trucks and adjusting work schedules.
The National Weather Service has issued winter weather advisories for Tuesday in northern portions of the region. Forecasters called for a trace to 2 inches of snow in the Metroplex, 2-4 inches further south to Waco.
A winter weather warning, however, was issued for areas south of Waco to Temple; 4-6 inches were expected in that band.
The advisories and warnings were expected to be in effect from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, said weather service meteorologists in Fort Worth.
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They predicted that as much as 5 inches could fall south of a line from Goldthwaite to Waco and on to Centerville, while "light snow" was called for the Metroplex -- far less than the record foot of snow that blanketed the area two weeks ago.
"The bullseye was on us with the last one," said Dan Shoemaker, another weather service meteorologist. "With this one, the bullseye is on the Waco-Temple area."
But just 2 more inches of snow this winter will break a record for the snowiest winter on record in North Texas.
The record 12.5 inches on Feb. 12 -- the most snow ever for a 24-hour period -- brought the region to 15.7 inches of snow this winter -- second only to 17.6 inches in 1977-78.
Reaching that milestone, however, did not appear likely on Monday, said Jesse Moore, another weather service meteorologist.
He explained that four of five computer models were indicating that the heaviest snow would be well south of the Metroplex.
But, he noted, it wasn't out of the question that the record could be broken this year, thanks to the El Niño.
This climate phenomenon is a periodic warming of the water in the tropical Pacific Ocean, accompanied by changes in air pressure and winds that can influence weather worldwide. Weather service officials have said it could last into spring.
"So," said Moore, "it's possible we could get another (snow event) all the way into March."
The latest snow predictions result from the low pressure storm system that was approaching North Texas from the west, said Dennis Cavanaugh, also of the weather service.
The approaching upper level system, Cavanaugh explained, will "induce a southerly flow" of moist air that will fuel the precipitation.
But, he added, a cold front that rolled into the region late Sunday afternoon had already put a deep chill on the atmosphere Monday.
The cold air will help create "snow as opposed to rain" when the storm system arrives, Cavanaugh said.
The colder temperatures were quite noticeable Sunday night, considering DFW Airport recorded 65 degrees at 3 p.m. The mercury at midnight was down to 40, according to the weather service.
Snow on Tuesday could accumulate on grassy areas in North Texas, but it could stack up elsewhere depending on the storm's intensity, Cavanaugh said.
But, he noted, the amount of snow accumulates in North Texas will depend on the storm system's intensity.
"If we get an inch over 6 hours, it won't do much," Cavanaugh said.
WEATHER EVENT NO. 6
Officials said Tuesday's snow will be the sixth major winter weather event this season.
Highlights include the Christmas Eve storm, which brought 3 inches of snow to Fort Worth, and the Arctic Blast of 2010 during the first week of January.
Although the Feb. 12 event caused some icing on area roadways, the biggest problem was heavy, wet snow pushing tree limbs onto power lines, severing electricity to 500,000 homes and businesses across North Texas.
But, while no more than 2 inches are expected Tuesday in Fort Worth, forecasters said they believed that area roadways will be slushy during the morning commute.
Slick roadways could be a problem Wednesday morning as snow melt from Tuesday meets below-freezing temperatures overnight.
State and municipal road crews in Fort Worth were taking the advisories seriously by filling sand trucks and scheduling crews to come to work at midnight.
Spokesmen for the city of Fort Worth and the Texas Department of Transportation said that, in recent years, they've encountered only one to three major winter weather events.
But, although there has been twice as many events this year, they've been able to maintain a sufficient supply of materials to treat local roadways.
"We're in good shape for salt and sand mixtures," said Kevin Neal, spokesman for the city's street department.
He noted that 500 tons of sand were delivered to the department's service centers after the Feb. 12 storm.
"After every event the street superintendents take an inventory of what was used (and) what's on hand," Neal said. "This time, suppliers were able to take care of us pretty quickly."
Val Lopez, TxDOT spokesman, said the Fort Worth office still has plenty of sand and magnesium chloride in stock because the Feb. 12 storm involved fewer road treatments and more "blade" work to push slush off roadways.
"So," Lopez said, "our stockpiles are pretty good."
Lopez and Neal said some of their crews will be coming to work early Tuesday and Wednesday to assess road conditions and respond accordingly.
Neal added that city crews last week began a "pothole blitz" to repair mini craters that appeared after Feb. 12. He said the potholes that were fixed since then are expected to hold up because they were filled with a "hot mix" solution.
He said the repair "blitz" was originally scheduled to last at least two weeks, but it will be extended longer if needed. Pothole repair, however, will be put off if crews are needed to treat roadways for ice, Neal said.
To report potholes, call 817-392-8100.
ELECTRIC UTILITY ALSO PREPARING
Oncor Electric Delivery had its hands full for several days after the Feb. 12 storm, as crews struggled to restore lights and heat to a half million account holders.
The utility was criticized by frustrated customers who said Oncor hadn't done enough in advance to trim trees. Company officials responded that they have struggled to to balance tree-trimming costs with other operations.
But, they added, the "vegetation management" was continuing and Oncor crews were still picking brush and limbs left over from the last storm.
Carol Peters, company spokeswoman, said the Feb. 12 storm would "go down in the record books as the fourth worst storm in Oncor's history and the worst winter storm ever."
Another Oncor spokeswoman on Monday said the company was ready for new round outages.
"Like with every storm that's pending, we are constantly monitoring the weather," said Jeamy Molina, the spokeswoman. "Our crews are prepared if another storm hits."
She urged people who are without power to not assume someone else has reported the outage. To report one, call 888-313-4747.