Bitter Cold Is Just Beginning

Wind chill may drop below zero as coldest weather in 12 years hits North Texas

By Frank Heinz
|  Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 10:17 PM CDT
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Snow Falls in North Texas on Christmas Eve

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Temperatures are not expected to rise above freezing until Saturday afternoon

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North Texans Brace for Frigid Weather

North Texans prepare their cars and themselves for the blast of arctic air.

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An Arctic cold front pushed into the Metroplex early Thursday morning, bringing bitterly cold weather and light precipitation into North Texas.

Temperatures are not expected to rise above freezing until Saturday afternoon, and the wind chill could dip below zero. North Texas will likely see wind chill factors near zero in the early morning hours Friday. A winter chill advisory is in effect until 10 a.m. Friday. Get a complete forecast here.

Some bridges and overpasses had thin layers of ice early Thursday morning, but the patchy ice disappeared with the afternoon sunshine.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit reported delays of up to 45 minutes from Mockingbird Station north because of ice on overhead power lines. There were also Blue Line delays around the Illinois Station because of local icing. Passengers were irate over being ordered off their trains and into the cold with little to no explanation. (Read more here about the weather-related DART delays.)

More than 225 school districts have closed or delayed starts Thursday, including Frisco, Keller, Northwest and HEB. (See a complete list of school delays and closings here.)

Crews across North Texas were out to keep motorists with car problems out of the cold. The Tarrant County Sheriff's Courtesy Patrol was on the lookout for stranded drivers. And Fort Worth police checked on people who may need help.

Gov. Rick Perry ordered the activation of the National Guard and other state resources as a precaution for any weather-related emergencies. More than 75 military personnel and three dozen high profile and other support vehicles were in place in Corsicana, Huntsville, Lufkin, Marshall and New Boston.

With the extreme winter weather, the Red Cross and local officials are advising North Texans to take precautions to stay safe and warm over the next few days, especially in their homes.

On Wednesday evening, hardware stores quickly sold out of some cold-weather supplies, including insulated covers for outdoor faucets and exposed pipes. Customers also crowded discount retailers such as Target for gloves, coats and other supplies. (Read more here about what people were buying.)

The National Fire Protection Association states that heating equipment, like space heaters, are the No. 1 cause of home fires during December, January and February and the second-leading cause of home fires year-round. Most accidents involving space heaters are the result of human error -- heaters are placed too close to combustible material like drapes and furniture, or they have not been properly maintained. (Read more here about taking precautions during extremely cold weather.)

STORM PREPS

In Dallas on Wednesday, street services had sanding trucks and crews on standby and code compliance crews are looking for businesses or residents who may be violating city rules by running a sprinkler during inclement weather. Dallas Water Utilities also had repair crews on standby in the event of a water main break.

The Dallas Police Department activated a plan Wednesday to locate unsheltered homeless persons and take them to the Bridge, Dallas' homeless assistance center. (Read more here about Operation Code Blue.)

The Dallas ISD canceled all outdoor athletic activities from Thursday through Saturday due to the impending cold. In Fort Worth and Arlington, the school districts implemented plans to de-ice walkways, check plumbing and turn off sprinklers while warming buses and schools earlier to ensure frigid temperatures would not disrupt student instruction. (See a complete list of school delays and closings here)

"With temperatures below 21 degrees, we have crews that arrive at 4 a.m. to begin starting and warming the buses," said Mike Horsely, director of Fleet Operations for the Fort Worth Independent School District. "The biggest issue in cold weather is that diesel fuel thickens, but we don’t expect the cold to last long enough for that to be an issue."

Finally, don't forget your pets. Even animals that live outdoors most of the year should be brought inside during times of inclement weather.

"If you're cold, your outdoor pets are cold," said Jonnie England, director of Animal Advocacy for the Metroplex Animal Coalition. "The body temperature of dogs and cats is just a little higher than a human's, so even though they're wearing 'fur coats,' they're still going to suffer in weather this cold. If it's not feasible to bring the pets inside the house, at the very least, they should be set up in a draft-free garage or storage building with plenty of dry, clean bedding." (Read more about taking care of pets in extremely cold weather.)

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