A motorist whose sports car could not get traction stands next to his vehicle on Vickery Boulevard in Fort Worth on Friday. Ron T. Ennis Star-Telegram
A motorist whose sports car could not get traction stands next to his vehicle on Vickery Boulevard in Fort Worth on Friday. Ron T. Ennis Star-Telegram

Fort Worth

Record snowfall blankets region, ‘slow recovery’ forecast Saturday

By Bill Hanna

and Dustin L. Dangli


ddangli@ star-telegram.com

February 27, 2015 09:16 AM

A thin coating of ice was making driving treacherous Saturday morning with forecasters advising drivers to stay off roads until this afternoon if at all possible.

While traffic was light, the few drivers were facing slippery conditions.The Fort Worth mixmaster near downtown Fort Worth was proving to be a challange and conditions were difficult throughout the area.

“It’s pretty slick out there and it’s not going to get any better out there until late this afternnon,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jesse Moore.

Temperatures aren’t expected to climb above freezing until mid-afternoon and another band of freezing drizzle was moving northward into the DFW area from the south.

Travel across almost all of North Texas was discouraged with icy conditions everwhere north of a line running from Comanche to Canton.

And those areas north and west of Fort Worth that received 5-7 inches of snow may not see much improvement today.

“They’re going to struggle to get to freezing because of the snow on the ground,” Moore said. “They may not get there until tonight or even Sunday.”

Once it gets above freezing, the freezing temperatures will be gone for a few days. But chances of rain will stick around and there could be another chance of sleet on Wednesday night.

“We really hadn’t had much winter weather this year, but we’re making up for it this week,” Moore said.

At Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, about 300 flights had been canceled and a ground stop was in place in which flights headed to DFW were being held on the ground at their departing airports.

On Friday, Fort Worth police responded to 617 traffic-related calls between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Traffic was much lighter Saturday and most people appeared to be heeding warnings to stay off roads.

For North Texans, Friday was a memorable day. By 8 p.m., 2 inches of snow had fallen at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, a record for Feb. 27.

Cities in Northeast Tarrant County got as much as 3 inches. Denton and Wise counties were blanketed in 5 to 8 inches of snow and were under a winter weather advisory until Saturday evening, the National Weather Service said.

Cowtown Marathon officials canceled Saturday’s events, which include 10K and 5K races. Sunday’s half-marathon, marathon and ultramarathon are still scheduled, but will start at 8 a.m. instead of 7.

Overnight, forecasters expected the snow, which dwindled to light flurries in the afternoon, to turn to a wintry mix of snow and freezing rain or drizzle. While precipitation may be light, accumulation on roadways will probably bring the region to a standstill Saturday morning, said Dan Huckaby, a meteorologist in the weather service’s Fort Worth office.

Temperatures may not get above freezing until 2 or 3 p.m. on Saturday, he said.

“If you think the road conditions are bad now, wait until later tonight or tomorrow,” Huckaby said. “It’s going to be a slow recovery.”

More snow than expected

The snow started about 8:30 a.m., earlier than predicted, and only a “light accumulation” was forecast on Thursday.

But travel conditions turned worse than expected. Rush hour essentially happened around late morning as schools had early dismissals and businesses sent workers home.

“Unfortunately, you had a lot of traffic on the roadways during the height of the storm,” Huckaby said.

Most school districts in the Fort Worth area held classes Friday and released students early.

Numerous weekend events were canceled or postponed, including a Friday night performance of The Wizard of Oz at Hurst’s Artisan Children’s Theater, which sent out a clever email calling it The Blizzard of Oz.

Complicating factors were the below-freezing temperatures. By 4 p.m., it was 26 at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, 25 at Fort Worth Meacham Airport and 23 at Alliance Airport in north Fort Worth, and the temperatures remained in the low 20s into the evening.

At various times Friday, Interstates 35W and 30 and numerous side streets in Fort Worth were briefly shut down because of treacherous driving conditions. Wrecks were reported across the region as virtually all 3,300 miles of interstates, state highways and farm roads were blanketed in snow.

In Collin County, U.S. 75 was temporarily shutdown in Melissa after a 15-vehicle pileup, according to media reports.

About 15 cars and trucks, plus four tractor-trailers, slipped off the road, resulting in minor injuries to at least seven travelers, the Collin County Sheriff’s Department said.

“We had one or two vehicles involved in a crash, then we had several vehicles trying to avoid that accident; those went off the road,” DPS Sgt. Lonny Haschel said. “The majority of them are not going to be car crashes. They were vehicles that just simply slid off the road and need a wrecker.”

Two traffic deaths

Fort Worth police responded to more than 617 calls for service between midnight and 6 p.m. But no serious injuries were reported.

However, two people were killed, one in Parker County and one in Dallas County.

A pickup driver was killed when his truck collided head on with an 18-wheeler shortly after 9 a.m. on Interstate 20 near Brock, Trooper Richard Hunter of the Texas Department of Public Safety said in an email. The dead man was identified as Nicolas Victor Garcia, 20, of North Richland Hills. The truck driver, Carlos Bright, 43, of Arlington, was not injured, Hunter said.

Garcia lost control of his 2002 Ford F150 pickup on ice and veered into the eastbound lanes, Hunter said.

At 9:45 a.m. Friday in Dallas County, a truck pulling a gooseneck trailer was eastbound on the President George Bush Turnpike crossing the Frankford Road overpass, lost control and overturned, Haschel said. A backseat passenger was ejected and died at the scene near the Carrollton-Dallas city limits.

State highway officials said they treated and sanded bridges and ramps as quickly as they could, and would continue to do so throughout the night.

“We have all our personnel out there. We’re going to be working around the clock, and will continue to do so until it gets better,” said Val Lopez, a Texas Department of Transportation spokesman. “It’s a widespread event, and we’re addressing it as best we can.”

TxDOT has deployed more than 225 workers to remove ice from highways on three different occasions this week, including Friday. The agency has a supply of 37,000 tons of sand, brine, salt and other materials to prevent or remove snow and ice from pavement. Lopez added the department plowed snow in some areas.

On the new Chisholm Trail Parkway, 19 workers were working to keep the lanes open, Michael Rey, a North Texas Tollway Authority spokesman, said in an email. The 28-mile toll road from Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to U.S. 67 in Cleburne has remained open through the week of sleet and snow storms. The workers use trucks, front-end loaders and other equipment to keep the lanes clear, Rey said.

At Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, officials said more than 600 flights were canceled, almost a third of the day’s overall flights. A ground stop was issued for part of Friday, meaning flights scheduled to arrive at DFW from other airports were prevented from taking off from their departing airport.

“We’re going to battle the conditions as we get them,” DFW Airport spokesman David Magaña said.

Fort Worth city spokesman Kevin Neal said crews were monitoring roads.

“We have 10 more trucks loaded with a sand/salt mixture ready to go out as needed,” Neal said “We have activated the Operations Center at James Avenue Service Center in south Fort Worth and will coordinate efforts from there. At this point, street crews are on a 12-hour shift and we will have the night shift come in at 7 p.m. if needed.”

Sunday’s forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of rain with a high temperature of 51.

As far north as western Illinois and as far south as southwestern New Mexico, weather conditions were similar, meteorologist Anthony Bain said.

“A good chunk of the heartland is seeing a good bit of winter weather,” he said.

Staff writers Domingo Ramirez Jr., Caty Hirst and Gordon Dickson contributed to this report.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

Saturday cancellations

▪ UT-Arlington’s 20th annual Powwow by the Native American Student Association .

▪ Saturday’s races at the Cowtown Marathon. Sunday’s half-marathon, marathon and ultramarathon are scheduled to start at 8 a.m. instead of 7 a.m.

▪ Fort Worth garbage and recycling collections. A normal schedule is expected to resume on Monday.

▪ The Blue Zones Project — Fort Worth’s free Building Healthy Neighborhoods workshops. Both are rescheduled for 5:30-8:30 p.m. Monday.

▪ The Needlepoint exhibit at Thistle Hill will be closed Saturday but will be open noon to 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets purchased for Friday or Saturday will be honored Sunday. All unused tickets will be considered a donation to Historic Fort Worth.

▪ Dental Health Arlington “Love That Smile” gala rescheduled for March 27.

▪ Arlington Kiwanis Club Pancake Day rescheduled for March 7.

▪ The boat building school for people planning to enter the Cardboard Boat Regatta hosted by the River Legacy Foundation.