News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Moguls For Cars:' What’s This Cobblestone Ice That’s Covering North Texas Roads?

Star-Telegram/Ross Hailey

The ice storm that’s blanketed North Texas streets and highways has spawned a new name: cobblestone ice.

Cobblestone ice – sounds poetic, doesn’t it?

Not if you’ve had to drive through it.

It’s not as charming as those quaint cobblestone streets that line cities such as Paris, Philadelphia or Savannah, Ga.

So what is it?

TxDOT’s Ryan LaFontaine says cobblestone ice is a combination of ice accumulation and sand laid down by TxDOT and city trucks -- and then traffic compresses the stuff together to form a cobblestone-type surface, a thick layer of frozen ruts and potholes. In some places, it's several inches deep.

It’s super bumpy ice that jolts you as you drive across it.

It doesn’t help matters that the ice has been melting and re-freezing.

It's stubborn

LaFontaine says it’s not easy to get rid of it.

“It has to be kind of busted up and become a slushy substance in order for us to plow it to the side,” he said.

TxDOT crews from the Dallas and Tarrant regions are out busting up and removing as much of the cobblestone ice as they can during the day before the stuff freezes up again at night.

Many normal snow plows have had problems removing the ice. So TxDOT has had to bring in motor graders from across the state to chew through the thick, stubborn stuff.

A tough time for truck drivers

Franchester Smith, a trucker, has been stuck in the ice at the Love’s truck spot in Denton. She drove in from Atlanta. She’s ready to move on.

Cobblestone ice, she says, is the worst.

“You got all these dents,” Smith said. “It just makes it really bad. Where you think it’s a pothole, but it’s not. It’s all the ice and snow that froze over it. You’re rolling over it and rolling over it.”

Eduardo Ruvalcaba, another trucker, has been stuck at a truck stop, the Travel Center of America, on Interstate 35 north of Denton since Thursday.

“It’s not pretty,” he said. “There was a coach bus that lost a tire because it was getting beat up so bad. All the truckers, that’s what they’ve been complaining -- our equipment is taking a beating over this.”

Jon Gandelman, who’s been driving trucks for 15 years, says he’s used to winter storms. Usually, you try to plow through. But with these road conditions? It’s another story. He arrived in Denton after being stuck in Oklahoma a couple of days. What’s he been doing?

“A lot of sitting, a lot of ice. I’m from California and we chain up all the time to go across the mountain passes. That’s just snow. When it’s ice, you don’t go anywhere.”

"Moguls for cars"

Moguls for cars is how Larry Mowry described it. Mowry’s the chief meteorologist at KTVT (Channel 11).

He posted this YouTube video of driving on cobblestone ice:

On Twitter, there are plenty of jokes and complaints about cobblestone ice:

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.
Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.