|Wacky winter weather drives forecasters crazy
Unexpected wave of snow covers North Texas
|Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor|
Jan. 17, 2007 - One line from the forecast discussion on the National Weather Service's website said it all:
"THIS FORECAST HAS OFFICIALLY DRIVEN ME CRAZY!"
Wintry precipitation that was supposed to stop some 50 miles to the south of Sulphur Springs overnight just kept a'coming this morning, blanketing all of North Texas with freezing rain, sleet and snow.
Hopkins County schools went on as scheduled, although late registration at the Sulphur Springs Higher Education Center was canceled and has been extended through Monday (See Page 12).
As late as 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, National Weather Service forecasters still weren’t expecting the line of wintry precipitation to advance further north than Interstate 20. But five hours later, the wave of light to moderate snow had spread over almost all of North Texas.
Locally, the day started out looking to be a lot worse than expected, with sleet and snow freezing to windshields faster than wipers could dislodge them, bridges refreezing shortly after being sanded and patches of black ice forming in some areas of town.
The city's emergency operations center was put on alert status at 7:30 a.m., and Hopkins County Salvation Army was busy checking local motels for available lodging in case conditions continued to worsen. Texas Department of Transportation and city road crews were busy tossing out a sand/gravel mix to keep roads passable in the early morning hours.
"There was black ice on some streets," Lt. Rex Morgan, the city's emergency operations coordinator, said at 10:30 a.m. "TxDoT, which had already been out a while, was notified of two locations — Gilmer [Street] at the bricks, and the wall south of Tennessee Street at the curb — and notified the city streets department. I've been out, and there are a few slick spots."
City and county school officials continued to monitor road conditions throughout the morning to determine whether or not to dismiss classes early for the day to lessen travel dangers.
"I've been in phone contact with Randall Blakemore and Patsy Bolton about roads," Morgan said of Sulphur Springs Independent School District's transportation coordinator and superintendent.
But by noon, the precipitation had begun to slow with very little sticking to roadways, and no schools serving Hopkins County students were known to have called off classes.
�Morgan said the city's EOC would continue to monitor conditions, as the weather service as of late morning still had the area under a snow advisory, with potential for an inch of snow in town and 1 to 2 inches of accumulation in rural areas.�
"We'll watch closely and let area media outlets know as conditions change or if they worsen. We already contacted them earlier to alert them of the trouble spots so they can help alert listeners," Morgan said.
Hopkins County Salvation Army Chairman Jo Marie Neal said a check of motels showed travel to continue to be brisk, with vacancies to accommodate travelers or citizens should conditions become inclement and shelter be needed. She said local hotel rooms would be utilized before any emergency shelter would be activated to accommodate local residents due to weather.