Old Man Winter Takes Another Swipe at Texas

Old Man Winter hasn't quite finished with Texas yet this winter; bone-chilling cold settled over the state, hundreds of flights were canceled, officials called for energy conservation measures and interstates turned into parking lots extending for miles Sunday into Monday.

Temperatures hit 80 on Saturday before plummeting into the teens Sunday.  Temperatures won't climb that high as fast as they dropped unfortunately; lows Monday night are expected to dip back into the 20s.

North Texas took the brunt of the latest storm, but freezing temperatures extended Monday into Central Texas and elsewhere. Operators of the state's electric grid urged conservation after icy weather led to power outages. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas asked consumers to limit power through Tuesday morning amid concerns over high demand.

The energy utility Oncor reported about 7,600 homes and businesses without electricity at one point, mainly in the Tyler and Dallas-Fort Worth areas.

The National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory until midmorning Monday for the Dallas-Fort Worth area as earlier temperatures dipped into the teens. About two inches of sleet fell in some parts of North Texas, prompting the closure of many schools and causing hundreds of traffic accidents throughout the region.

Nearly 700 schools and businesses reported closures and delays.  Meanwhile, more than 300 flights were canceled Sunday at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. American Airlines alone canceled another 140 flights Monday.

But perhaps the most dramatic scenes Monday were on interstates where motorists reported being stranded for hours.

Traffic on Monday morning was at a virtual standstill on northbound Interstate 45, the primary corridor between Dallas and Houston, Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Lonny Haschel said. The backup extended for at least 15 miles stretching south from Corsicana, he said, but some motorists reported coming to a stop in Fairfield, about 30 miles south of Corsicana, according to KRLD-AM in Dallas.

Haschel said the sleet and ice prevented tractor-trailers on I-45 from ascending steeper parts of the interstate. With the big rigs blocking portions of the roadway, traffic quickly backed up.

Some drivers said they had been stuck on I-45 since Sunday night, the station reported.

"In the North Texas area, we're getting good with this," Haschel said of emergency efforts. "Unfortunately we've had to deal with this several times this year."

Tony Hartzel, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation, said road crews began treating sections of I-45 on Sunday to melt sleet and ice, but efforts were hampered when an 18-wheeler jackknifed early Monday, blocking lanes.

The scene was similar in East Texas on Interstate 20, where DPS Trooper Jean Dark said extra troopers were patrolling to check on motorists waiting in long lines.

"Traffic is moving slowly, but it is moving," she said Monday afternoon.

Law enforcement personnel transported some stranded motorists to warming shelters.

Dark said she couldn't recall a similar episode on I-20 where traffic in both directions came to a standstill and motorists languished for hours.

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