Flash Frozen

Published on Sunday, 2 March 2014 23:22 - Written by Faith Harper, fharper@tylerpaper.com

 An unusual stint of winter weather Sunday caused dangerous road conditions, closures, fires and power outages but gave several East Texans a snow day.

John Adams, KYTX CBS19 chief meteorologist, said the area experienced thunder sleet — a thunderstorm that produces sleet.

“It’s cold enough to where the precipitation freezes before it hits the ground, but you also get thunder and lightning out of it,” Adams said.

The process the storms are created are the same, only with extremely cold air. dams said an arctic cold front moved in Sunday, bringing freezing temperatures and an upper-air disturbance, bringing thunderstorms and moisture.

The effect was a mixture of rapidly falling sleet, with thunder and lightning.

Adams said the weather is fairly common in other parts of the country.

“You get it occasionally if the conditions are right, but the conditions aren’t right here that often,” he said.

The storm dropped about an inch of sleet on the area and made roads a slushy mess. Tree branches snapped because of the cold and weight of ice, falling on power lines and in roadways. There also were reports of homes struck by lightning.

Tyler emergency personnel were so inundated with calls of wrecks that the police department asked people with minor accidents to exchange information and file the wreck with the department the following day.

Charles Hill, ONCOR spokesman, said as of 7 p.m., 11,000 people were without power and that number was expected to grow throughout the night.

The most without power was in Tyler, with 8,500 outages reported.

Swepco’s website listed another 766 without power in Tyler, 2,177 Upshur County and 5,138 Gregg County.

“This is the kind of storm we really dread — ice and freezing rain together,” Hill said.

Those without power are asked to be patient. It is expected to take an extensive amount of time to get everyone’s lights back on because of the road and weather conditions the workers are in.

Hill asked customer to be patient, and said crews would be through the night to restore power as quickly as they safely could. He did not have a time estimate for all the light to be restored.

Adams said he expects temperatures to stay below freezing until around noon Monday, and then refreeze Tuesday morning.

Texas Department of Transportation crews were on standby through the night waiting for roads to freeze over, spokesman Larry Krantz said.

“We have been preparing for the worst for several storms in a row now; and this one has met our expectations,” Krantz said.

Krantz said trucks were fuelled and ready to combat the weather, and sanding crews would be on bridges and known problematic roads as they froze.

He said anyone who has to drive on them in the morning should drive slowly and be especially cautious of bridges and overpasses.

“Don’t take anything for granted behind the wheel, and if you can postpone your trip, do it,” he said.

Several East Texans won’t have to be on the roads due to a long list of school and business closures and delays.

At least seven school districts cancelled classes including Tyler, Athens, Lindale, Van and Chapel Hill ISDs. Every school district in Smith County called for a delayed start Sunday evening, and those that did not cancel classes expect to re-evaluate road conditions in the morning.

Smith County offices also closed for the day, and Tyler Urology cancelled all of its appointments.

Adams joked that the rollercoaster weather will continue. Temperatures are expected to be cold Tuesday, with highs in the 40s, and then warm up as the week continues with highs in the 70s by Friday.