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North Texas hit with record snowfall; Fort Worth a ghost town

A sand truck and police unit make their way onto U.S. in heavy snow that covers roadways in Fort Worth early Thursday.
A sand truck and police unit make their way onto U.S. in heavy snow that covers roadways in Fort Worth early Thursday. Star-Telegram

North Texas was hit with the biggest snowfall in five years overnight, making for slippery roadways that brought the region to an early morning standstill.

Officially, 3.5 inches of snow fell at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport but some areas in Grapevine, Grand Prairie and Irving saw totals as high as 7 inches. Most of Tarrant County saw 2-4 inches with higher totals in the northern part of the county.

The snowfall was breathtakingly beautiful as the sun began to shine, but conditions — on side streets, highways and sidewalks —were slick and definitely dangerous.

“Everything we’ve heard so far is the roads are slick and treacherous,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Stalley. “We certainly don't encourage people to be out. It's going to be well into the afternoon before we start seeing improvement.”

Fort Worth police reported 102 stranded motorist calls and 58 accidents from 8 p.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday.

More than 600 flights were canceled in and out of DFW Airport as crews worked to clear runways.

“This morning, we have a very limited schedule,” said American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely. “As the day goes on and the snow and ice begin to melt, we’ll be able to operate more flights.”

Riders who took the Trinity Railway Express from the Hurst-Bell Station were dismayed to learn that bus service in Fort Worth was suspended because of the icy conditions.

“It looks like it will be a crunchy walk,” said Missy Brown, a north Arlington resident who takes the TRE when the weather is bad.

Brown had to make the treacherous walk to Burnett Building, about five blocks from train stop.

What she and others discovered during their walk was a ghost town; downtown Fort Worth was largely deserted at 7 a.m.

With sunshine and temperatures expected to climb above freezing this afternoon, road conditions should improve but the hazards may not completely go away.

“It’s going to take awhile to melt everything that’s out there,” Stalley said.

And whatever is left will refreeze Thursday night, making Friday morning’s commute a little dicey — something North Texans have grown accustomed to in the past two weeks.

Traffic backups were reported at the Fort Worth mixmaster and along Texas 360 in Arlington. A section of I-30 near Camp Bowie Boulevard was closed overnight because of a jack-knifed 18-wheeler but the interstate reopened around 6:30 a.m.

At 6 a.m., backups were being reported on Texas 360 in Arlington and on Loop 820 and Mark IV Parkway in Fort Worth

At Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, 310 departures had been canceled, according to FlightStats.com. Many passengers were stranded at the airport overnight.

TCU and the University of Texas at Arlington closed classes. School districts including Fort Worth, Arlington, Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Mansfield, Carroll, Eagle Mountain-Saginaw, Azle, Weatherford, Burleson and Crowley announced that they were closed Thursday.

The City of Fort Worth was planning to open at noon.

This was the biggest snowfall since Feb. 11, 2010, when 11.2 inches fell at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

And it was the biggest March snowfall since March 7, 1947 when 3.9 inches fell.

The light freezing rain falling in the Fort Worth area turned to sleet between 6 and 7 p.m., Gudmestad said.

Wind chills were in the teens with strong north winds.

Temperatures across Tarrant County dropped to freezing by 7 p.m. Wednesday night, Gudmestad said. Temperatures reached 24 degrees overnight at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

Some areas were forecast to see thundersleet around midnight Wednesday.

“The only thing that could make those [sleet] amounts go higher is if you get thundersleet,” weather service meteorologist Dennis Cavanaugh said. “There will be some thundersleet. The only question is if that corridor of thunderstorms sets up over the DFW area.”

DFW is under a winter storm warning until noon Thursday, when temperatures are expected to start rising above freezing.

A wind advisory was in effect until 6 a.m.

Thursday afternoon’s high should reach 37, but the wind chill will be as low as 13 or 14 degrees, forecasters said.

The low will be in the mid-20s, with 10 to 20 mph winds.

A total of 577 trucks and other pieces of equipment had been deployed by highway crews in the Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton areas Wednesday night. In all, 325 employees are working round-the-clock, said Val Lopez, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation’s Fort Worth district.

Colleen Coyle, a meteorologist with WFAA/Channel 8, said road conditions will not improve until Thursday afternoon.

“The main thing is the roads will be getting worse overnight,” Coyle said.

But Coyle said that the precipitation would end by sunrise and that the sun is expected to come out, which will improve conditions.

“The good news is we have sunshine by tomorrow afternoon, and the temperatures will warm up,” she said.

Airlines were canceling flights ahead of the storm.

By Wednesday night, 297 departures from DFW Airport had been canceled, according to FlightStats.com.

American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said the airline is preparing for the storm.

“Unfortunately, this means an impact to some of our customers’ travel plans,” Huguely said. “In order to help our customers and our operations team plan as much as possible, we have canceled approximately 250 flights this afternoon and evening.”

Passengers are encouraged to check their flight status at www.aa.com. American has also put a travel waiver in place for customers through DFW Airport, making it easier to change plans. It can be found at bit.ly/1aLwIHh.

Airport spokesman David Magaña said passengers should keep checking for flights Thursday. Based on the forecast, Magaña said, passengers should expect the effects to last until at least midday.

Magaña said airlines have also canceled about 175 departures from DFW for Thursday.

Over 600 inbound and outbound flights were canceled overall Wednesday night, The Associated Press reported.

Customers can check the Flight Information page at www.dfwairport.com/flights or download the DFW Airport app for information about flights within the next eight hours.

Once the cold front leaves North Texas, no rain is in the forecast for the next few days, meaning spring break will actually feel like spring, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s by Monday.

Staff writers Lee Williams, Monica Nagy and Gordon Dickson contributed to this report.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

What’s closed?

For a complete list of weather-related closings, see www.wfaa.com/closings

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