Treacherous conditions suspected in fatal wreck
The Denton area’s latest bout with freezing drizzle, sleet and snow Monday night may have been a factor in at least one traffic fatality, resulted in multiple accidents and closed several schools.
Katelyn ShyAnn Hooper, 16, was killed in a two-vehicle accident south of Justin on Monday evening, officials said.
Lonny Haschel, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said troopers were called to the accident on FM156, south of State Highway 114, at 5:30 p.m. A Ford Contour passenger car was traveling south on FM156 when it was struck by a northbound Ford three-quarter-ton pickup, he said.
Haschel said the driver of the Contour died at the scene and a 16-year-old passenger in the vehicle, Brianna Christensen, was taken to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth with serious injuries.
The driver of the pickup, April Seleska, 31, of Denton, was also taken to the same hospital with serious injuries, he said.
Updated conditions for Christensen and Seleska were not available, Haschel said.
Northwest ISD officials released a statement late Tuesday indicating they join the community in grieving the loss of a Northwest High School student and another student who remains in the hospital after Monday's accident.
"Our thoughts are with the families during this time. School is closed today due to icy bridges and roadways, so a counseling hotline has been set up for students who need someone to talk to via phone or email," officials stated.
“On behalf of the Northwest High School Lady Texan basketball program, we are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our players, ShyAnn Hooper and the condition of another player, Brianna Christensen,” said Head Basketball Coach Rusty Johnson in the news release. “Shyann Hooper was loved by her teammates and school. She will be deeply missed and always remembered as a part of the Lady Texan basketball family. Our prayers go out to the families and friends of both young ladies, and we ask for continued prayers for the both families and Brianna's recovery.”
Northwest High School Principal Jason Childress said it was a difficult time for students and their families.
“Shy loved her school and was a faithful part of the school community. She will be missed by many," the principal noted. "Tomorrow, we will provide extra counseling staff on campus for students who should need assistance.”
Weather conditions have not been ruled out as a factor in the accident, the trooper said.
Another accident Monday resulted in damage to a fire engine, officials said.
Kenneth Hedges, spokesman for the Denton Fire Department, said Denton Engine 1 was blocking traffic for a motor vehicle accident near the Interstate 35 split when a vehicle struck the rear of the fire truck. The woman driving the vehicle that collided with the fire truck was transported by emergency personnel to a nearby hospital with minor injuries.
Hedges said it’s standard practice for the department to use a fire truck as a “blocking” vehicle to protect crews working an emergency. Officials estimated damage to the fire engine at $4,000.
From 5 p.m. Monday to 12 a.m. Tuesday, the Denton Fire Department responded to 10 motor vehicle accidents, and eight of those resulted in 10 people being transported to area hospitals with various injuries. No firefighters or medics were injured.
Lake Cities officials also reported an ambulance was rear-ended by a vehicle in Highland Village on Monday.
Denton police Officer Ryan Grelle said officers handled 65 accidents Monday night, starting shortly after rush hour, when the department became bombarded with calls related to the treacherous road conditions.
Sandi Brackeen, spokeswoman for the Denton County Sheriff’s Office, said the county dispatched personnel to 60 accidents from 6 p.m. Monday to 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Lt. Carrie West, a spokeswoman with the Corinth Police Department, reported three accidents Monday, and said officers spent most of their time assisting other agencies. The department called in extra personnel to assist because of the weather conditions.
Lt. Darren Brockway, spokesman for The Colony Police Department, said officers worked 14 accidents Monday night with one person requiring transport to a hospital because of a head injury.
Unlike the impact on travel, the area power grid was only slightly affected by the storm. Denton Municipal Electric has had no outages in the past 24 hours, according to spokesman Daniel Bunselmeyer, nor has Oncor in other parts of the county.
CoServ officials also reported normal operations in its electric and natural gas distribution systems. The electric cooperative saw one outage Monday night that affected about 15 members near Sanger after a vehicle hit a utility pole.
Jody Gonzalez, Denton County emergency management director, said officials were a bit surprised to wake up Tuesday to find road conditions drying out. Gonzalez said crews were out until about 1 a.m. Tuesay dealing with major accidents that occurred Monday night.
“We had pileups on U.S. [Highway] 380 in two different locations, a five-car [accident] and a six-car [accident],” he said.
Even with the improved conditions seen Tuesday morning, Gonzalez lauded school officials’ decisions to close schools.
“You really can’t tell what it is going to do,” Gonzalez said about the weather. “Some of them had to make a decision and it was the right thing to do.”
Denton police said multiple accidents were reported at about 8 a.m. Tuesday in Denton, Frisco, Lewisville and Dallas because of icy road conditions.
A number of school districts were closed Tuesday, including Denton, Argyle, Krum, Lake Dallas, Little Elm, Northwest and Ponder. Denton Calvary Academy and Liberty Christian School also closed.
All Denton County offices, the University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University campuses in Dallas and Denton were closed Tuesday, officials said. North Central Texas College delayed classes at all campuses until 11 a.m., and the Aubrey school district canceled all morning activities before school.
All Texas Education Center campuses in Aubrey, Denton, Lewisville and Little Elm were closed Tuesday, and Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Denton was also closed.
Sporting event updates
The inclement weather forced some schedule changes for local high school events.
The boys basketball game between Trophy Club Nelson and Denton High School scheduled for Tuesday night at Denton High was rescheduled for 7:30 tonight.
The Trophy Club Nelson-Guyer High School girls soccer match scheduled for Tuesday was rescheduled for 5:30 p.m. today at Guyer High.
The Guyer boys basketball game at Fort Worth Brewer, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was moved to tonight.
In the University Interscholastic League girls basketball playoffs, the Aubrey-Decatur game, originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Flower Mound Marcus, was rescheduled for tonight.
Are we done yet?
The area’s latest round of winter weather followed a slew of arctic cold fronts that began moving into North Texas in December.
The latest wintry storm started anew late Tuesday after a brief respite with blue skies and a clear view of the sun as light snow began to fall around 4 p.m., though temperatures were above freezing and little to no accumulation was expected.
North Texans can expect a brief reprieve from the cold air as temperatures warm up considerably by the weekend, according to Jason Dunn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
Today’s high for Denton is expected to reach 46 degrees, with temperatures Thursday and Friday reaching the mid-60s. By the weekend, residents can look forward to sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s, Dunn said.
Long-range weather models, however, are showing another round of cold air predicted to arrive by the end of next week, but without precipitation, Dunn said.
“We’re still technically in winter,” Dunn said. “The cold air can linger well into March and April.”
Staff writers Megan Gray, Britney Tabor, Bj Lewis, Dawn Cobb, Riley Patterson, Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe, Larry McBride and The Dallas Morning News contributed to this report.
A WINTRY LOOK BACK
While it may seem like winter has lasted longer than a few months, it’s not officially over until March 19. For a quick glimpse at what North Texans have faced so far this season:
Thursday, Dec. 5
Mother Nature provided a winter preview for North Texas all across the region when an icy storm lingered for several days closing schools, government offices and businesses alike.
Members of the Texas Army National Guard from Wichita Falls were deployed to help local officials with assisting motorists who were stranded for more than 10 hours along Interstate 35 from Oklahoma to the county line, and one woman plunged to her death in the icy waters of Lewisville Lake.
Lindsey Baker, spokeswoman for the city of Denton, said city crews logged more than 1,900 man-hours over four days in the early December ice storm and used more than 624 tons of sand.
Denton County was declared the worst hit in the entire region, receiving an estimated 6 inches of ice, according to county officials. The phrase, “cobblestone ice,” became part of the area lexicon.
Sunday, Feb. 2
Several accidents were reported in the afternoon after parts of Denton County were hit with a mix of sleet and snow.
Residents in Ponder began seeing snow at about 1 p.m., while heavy sleet was reported in Justin.
Ice pellets melted upon contact as temperatures hovered around the freezing mark.
Thursday, Feb. 6
Once again, snow and packed ice forced many area schools and government offices to close.
This short-lived storm caused more than 100 accidents on the roadways by lunchtime Thursday. Most activity cleared up as the wintery precipitation melted away for parts of the county before refreezing on side roads, bridges and overpasses when the temperatures fell into the 20s overnight and into Friday morning. A heavier snow was initially predicted for Denton County on Friday, but residents said they saw only scattered flurries.
Monday, Feb. 10
Four days after the last wintry blast rolled through the region, Denton County was hit again.
The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook advisory for several counties across Texas, including Denton County, on Monday, and officials said it didn’t take long before they were bombarded with accident calls because of icy bridges and overpasses.
While schools and government offices closed for precautionary measures, the sun broke through the clouds Tuesday afternoon before snow began to fall around 4 p.m.
National Weather Service meteorologists say the area’s chances for winter precipitation are not over yet.
— Megan Gray