winter weather

Emergency Crews Brace for Winter Weather, Ask Public to Stay Off Roads

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Crews across North Texas are working around the clock as severe winter weather moves into the state.

Danielle Boyd, a public information officer with the Texas Department of Transportation, said roads have been pre-treated with brine.

“We’re on 12-hour shifts, and we’re going to continue to do so until the roads are clear,” Boyd said. “Right now, we’re monitoring any icy areas, especially those bridges and overpasses.”

Boyd added, there is a heavy focus on high-travel areas.

“As of [Saturday], we are in the process of closing down our TEXpress-managed toll lanes,” she said. “With reduced demand for traffic on Monday morning and probably throughout the weekend in this weather event, we want to put our focus on the main lanes for travel.”

Matt Zavadsky, chief strategic integration officer with MedStar, said they began preparing for the winter weather earlier this week. There is MedStar personnel staying overnight at nearby hotels in order to safely respond to any emergencies Sunday without risking their own safety, Zavadsky said.

This week, a deadly pile-up including at least 133 cars along Interstate 35W killed six people and injured dozens. Several people caught in the crash were first responders and essential workers.

“We also have been putting special pales of sand and salt mixture on all of the ambulances so if they get to a scene that has ice or slippery conditions, whether that be a highway area or if its somebody front yard or walkway, they can actually spread that salt-sand mixture to keep everyone safe while they’re moving in and out,” Zavadsky said.

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MedStar crews have been equipped with extra blankets and heat packs in order to treat patients with hypothermia.

“Nobody likes working in this type of weather, but they’re prepared for it,” he said, referring to MedStar's teams.

When “real feel” temperatures drop below 20 degrees, Zavadsky said their response protocol is adjusted.

“We increase the priority of the response for anybody who is outside in the unprotected area,” he said. “The example is, somebody falls and has an ankle injury. Normally, we won’t respond with call lights and sirens because it’s not a life-threatening emergency. Lights and sirens are pretty risky. In this case, we are going to respond with lights and sirens, because we want to prevent that person who is in the unprotected area from developing hypothermia.”

Both TxDOT and MedStar urged the public to stay off the roads in the coming days unless absolutely necessary.

“This is going to be unprecedented cold here in our community and unprecedented weather,” Zavadsky said. “There’s really no good reason unless you really have to for work or other things. Just stay home.”

As part of a disaster declaration issued Friday by Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas State Operations Center has expanded to daily, 24-hour operations through the end of next week.

See the latest weather forecast from NBC 5's team of Weather Experts below.

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