Not out of the ice just yet

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Al Key/DRC
Veterinarian Dr. Lynn Stucky removes thick ice from the driveway of his clinic between Sanger and Denton on Milam Road on Sunday.
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UNT, TWU and area school districts closed Monday

A brief thaw offered glimpses of hope to iced-in Denton-area residents Sunday, but continued cold temperatures were expected to bring a recurrence today of the icy roads that have caused mishaps, accidents and gridlock throughout the region for several days.

As of Monday morning, roads were again slick from freezing fog - a weather phenomenon rare for North Texas that can add a layer of sheer ice on elevated items, bridges and overpasses in particular.

Traffic was slow moving along Interstate 35E by early morning as more drivers opted to get out on the roads. An early jack-knifed truck at Fort Worth Drive and Interstate 35E has been cleared away. And traffic along Lewisville Lake bridge is slow moving.

Denton County announced Sunday that its government offices would remain closed today, and the University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University also cancelled classes for today. Local school officials were announcing schools would be closed Monday - ranging from Denton to Pilot Point to Sanger to Lake Dallas and Lewisville, among others. (See full list near the end.)

The Texas Department of Transportation was working round-the-clock to clear some of the major interstates and highways, particularly the hard-hit Interstate 35 between Denton and Oklahoma. Hundreds of truckers had lined the highway Saturday after being unable to move on the ice-covered roads.

“Our guys have been out there doing their best to make sure the roads are as safe as they can be during this time,” TxDOT spokesman Tony Hartzel said.

Denton County is one of the worst-hit counties in the region, with area roads covered by the heavy ice and sleet that began falling late Thursday and quickly compacted into sheets of ice. At least one death in Denton County has been attributed to the bad weather — a woman whose truck went out of control on the ice and plunged into Lewisville Lake about 4 a.m. Saturday. Her identity had not been released as of press time Sunday. Speed, officials said, was not believed to be a factor.

The few rays of sunshine and temperatures that rose briefly above freezing on Sunday helped the relief effort, but Denton County Emergency Management Coordinator Jody Gonzalez urged residents not to be overconfident.

“The confidence you have [today], don’t have that same confidence in the morning. Watch out for the black ice,” he said. “The only preventative thing we can say is ‘Go slow’ in the morning  ... The water will freeze and it will be real slick. We anticipate that black ice will be a big issue.”

State help moves in

Gonzalez said many of the traffic problems that plagued the area on Friday and Saturday were addressed by Sunday through efforts made by the state and county.

“The state gave us extra equipment and came up with a game plan to help us,” Gonzalez said. “We’re definitely seeing fewer problems.”

But he warned residents to be careful on neighborhood streets. The only streets that the county and state have been treating are major highways, interstates and major farm-to-market roads that cut through local cities and towns.

Gonzalez said several municipalities have requested sand trucks for the county to treat their roadways.

TxDOT began a major effort beginning at 6 a.m. Sunday to plow and grade the ice on Interstate 35 from State Highway 380 north to the Cooke County line. By Sunday afternoon, crews had begun treating the highway toward the Tarrant County line.

“The crews are using motor graders, followed by plows, to clear the 4 to 6 inches of packed ice,” Hartzel said.

Hartzel said that by early Monday morning, I-35 should be treated with salt to help prevent ice accumulation and refreezing.

The National Weather Service predicts that much of the same road conditions the region has seen during the weekend will continue Monday and throughout the day. Some of the ice on the roads did melt Sunday afternoon, but by sunset the water refroze.

The National Weather Service predicts that the icy weather will continue to have an effect on the region until at least Tuesday. A weather service spokesman said that the road conditions Monday morning will continue to be dangerous.

Temperatures are expected to rise above freezing again Monday but will drop below freezing again tonight. Most of the roads should be thawed by Tuesday afternoon, after temperatures rise again.

Staying busy

Most residents, meanwhile, were staying out of the weather and making do the best they could.

The Salvation Army in Denton remained open round-the-clock to offer shelter to people from the frigid temperatures, said Brenda Jackson, with the Salvation Army.

“We’re going above and beyond and we’re adjusting to the conditions,” she said.

Jackson said the facility began staying open round-the-clock Friday and that all Salvation Army personnel have been on call for 24 hours.

Because the weather is dangerous, Jackson said the shelter has waived its drug testing policy and increased the number of meals it serves daily.

She said employees have even brought movies to keep everyone occupied until the temperatures increase.

Jackson said the shelter has been slightly overbooked. With only 34 beds available, some people have been forced to sleep on mats.

“We don’t have plans to turn anyone away, and we have yet to do so,” she said.

Closures

Denton County announced Sunday afternoon that it would close offices on Monday. Texas Woman’s University, the University of North Texas, North Central Texas College, Denton Independent School District, Immaculate Conception Catholic School, Denton Calvary Academy, Winfree Academy Charter Schools, Selwyn College Preparatory School, Argyle ISD, Aubrey ISD, Krum ISD, Lake Dallas ISD, Lewisville ISD, Northwest ISD, Little Elm ISD, Pilot Point ISD, Ponder ISD and Liberty Christian School in Argyle also announced closures for Monday.

In addition, Texas Education Centers announced their campuses would be closed on Monday. The city of Aubrey also announced it keep offices closed on Monday. The city of Denton will open its offices at 10 a.m.

Officials encourage parents to check their respective school district websites for the latest information.

Check the Denton Record-Chronicle’s website, dentionrc.com, for updates on closures and road conditions.

Slow business

Last minute rushes earlier in the week before the storm apparently left some supplies a bit short at area stores, especially after normal deliveries were stalled on the major thoroughfares.

Some basic staples such as a gallon of milk, pet food, orange juice and other items were running low at a few major grocery chains this afternoon.

A few gas stations in south of Dallas were without unleaded gasoline. One gas station in Lancaster had a long line of vehicles with drivers waiting to refill their tanks.

And in Denton, several gas stations were without diesel.

Clerks at a couple of stores in Lewisville said few customers had stopped by over the weekend. At one shop, a checkout clerk said only three customers had stopped by as of noon Sunday and that likely they would close earlier than usual for the third day in a row.

Though traffic was light on roads across Denton County on Sunday, a number of restaurants, grocery stores and shops were open for business.

Staff writers Megan Gray, Britney Tabor, Cindy Breeding and Dawn Cobb also contributed to this report.

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.

 


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