How North Texas is preparing for the incoming winter storm
North Texas is preparing for below-freezing temperatures and a wintry mix of precipitation in the coming days as a cold front moves across much of the state. Here's what North Texas and state agencies are doing to prepare for the storm.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for northeast and central Texas ahead of bitter cold and a chance of sleet, snow and ice late Wednesday through Friday.
Temperatures are expected to plummet into the low-20s overnight Wednesday, and they'll remain in the teens and 20s throughout Thursday and Friday. Total snow and/or sleet accumulations up to 3 inches are possible, as well as wind gusts up to 35 mph.
The storm’s not expected to be as bad as the devastating freeze last February, but the Electric Reliability Council of Texas is forecasting energy demand to be about 10% higher than the normal winter peak.
Dan Cohan, a professor of Environmental Engineering at Rice University, says the cold will be a test for power plants.
“How well do those coal and gas and nuclear power plants hold up after they've supposedly gone through all six of their winterizations?” he said. “They've been audited and visited by ERCOT, do they hold up better than they had last year?”
But Cohan said even if power plants experience problems, the risk to the grid is small, since the cold front is not expected to encompass the whole state and temperatures won't stay below freezing for more than a day or two.
At a press briefing Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott said ERCOT expects the highest demand on Friday morning.
"ERCOT will have an excess of 15,000 megawatts of power available even at the time of highest demand,” he said. “So, ERCOT is well prepared for conditions as they currently stand but remains flexible in order to be able to be responsive to power demand needs.”
Some North Texas schools and colleges announced they'll be closed due to the storm.
Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD will be closed Thursday and Friday. Garland ISD will be closed Thursday.
Dallas College says all in-person classes will be cancelled Thursday and Friday, but that online classes will continue and virtual student services will remain available.
Arlington, Plano, Crowley, DeSoto, Duncanville, Cedar Hill, Mansfield, Grand Prairie and Everman ISDs are closed Thursday and Friday.
Prepping the roadways
In North Texas, crews have already started pre-treating roads ahead of the cold front.
The Texas Department of Transportation began brining the roads in Fort Worth’s district on Sunday using a mixture of water, sand and salt. That area includes Tarrant, Wise, Hood, Johnson, Erath, Jack, Palo Pinto, Parker and Somervell Counties.
The agency said they’ll have sanding crews on standby beginning tomorrow, and once the cold and icy weather hits, approximately 400 crew members will be on-call in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Kendall Kirkham Sloan is a spokesperson for TXDOT.
"It is going to be a mess,” she said. “The biggest message is to please make arrangements and just stay home so we can get through this, if at all possible. That is the best way to keep yourself safe on the roadways.”
Sloan stressed even if the ice looks like it's melting, it's not worth the risk. The ground will likely refreeze the next day, possibly worsening conditions.
Residents can look at real time updates of high traffic highways on the department's website.
The City of Dallas is opening a temporary inclement weather shelter in Fair Park’s Automobile Building located at 1010 First Ave. The doors open at noon on Wednesday, and will remain open around the clock for anyone seeking shelter from the cold.
In Fort Worth, libraries and community centers can be used as warming stations during normal business hours.
The Salvation Army is also opening warming shelters across North Texas in Garland, Lewisville, McKinney, Plano and Arlington. The organization said these shelters will have hot food and drinks, water and emotional support for those in need.
Other tips on how to stay safe during the sub-freezing temperatures:
The Red Cross recommends protecting pipes from freezing by opening kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing, and letting the faucets drip.
If using a space heater, be sure to place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface like ceramic or tile, not rugs or carpeted areas. Also make sure the heater is not near any other flammable items like bedding, furniture and clothing, and never leave it on overnight.
Bring any pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have a warm shelter and access to unfrozen water.
Todd Beal with the National Weather Service also stressed the importance of building a winter weather kit with a few days worth of food, water and medicine on hand.
“Make sure your cell phone is fully charged [and] you have extra batteries around for portable radios and things like that,” he added. “If you're in the area that's going to receive some ice accumulations, make sure you have some salt or something like that. You could put down that stuff outside around your house if needed.”
KERA's Ana Perez and Justin Martin contributed to this report.
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