By CLINT FOSTER
On Feb. 2, 2014, Punxsutawney Phil – the official groundhog meteorologist of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club in Pennsylvania – saw his shadow upon awakening from his winter nap and thus predicted six more weeks of winter. Phil’s familiarity with North Texas weather trends remains to be seen, but after yet another incident of inclement winter weather, Thursday, it would appear winter is here to stay in the Lone Star State.
Thursday’s snowfall represented at least the third incident of snow or ice in Palo Pinto County this winter and the fourth since Nov. 25. This includes the so called “Icepocalypse” that crippled North Texas with .77 inches of sleet and temperatures as low as 16 degrees between Dec. 5 through 9. The 2013-14 winter, so far, has produced the most incidents of severe weather since 2011, which included the snowstorms around the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
In addition to rainfall on warmer days, Mineral Wells has seen a total of 3.04 inches of precipitation since Dec. 1. In spite of the many winter storms, temperatures over that span have been all over the map, ranging from as hot as 80 degrees plummeting all the way to a minimum of 10 degrees. It’s Texas weather at its finest.
Thursday also continued this winter’s trend of setting record-low temperatures, with 14 degrees shattering the previous record for the day of 26 degrees in 2004. The low was also well below the average of 34 degrees, as was the high for the day, 19 degrees, when compared to the average high of 55 degrees.
In response to the latest wave of frosty conditions, Mineral Wells ISD closed school Thursday with the possibility of a decision to do the same again before daybreak this morning.
But even with snow packed tightly onto roads in some areas, Mineral Wells drivers did not seem to have too much difficulty getting around. Mineral Wells Police Chief Dean Sullivan told the Index Thursday afternoon that MWPD responded to six minor accidents during the snow – only two of which resulted in official accident reports – four minor motorist assists and no major wrecks. Police reported no fatalities or hit-and-runs during that span as well.
Mineral Wells Director of Public Works Kelly Jones said the worst accident was a “three or four car” pile up at the intersection of US Highway 180 and Farm-to-Market Road 1821, Thursday morning.
Although that spot is Texas Department of Transportation right of way, Jones said city crews took it upon themselves to sand that intersection in an attempt to prevent further wrecks. They spent the rest of the day laying sand – particularly in the hills on the northeast side of town and on heavily traveled roads, such as SE 25th Avenue and NW 4th Avenue – with plans to begin sanding again at 6 a.m. this morning before the work crowd has to hit the streets. Jones said problems arose once new snow showers fell covering previously sanded areas.
“We’ve been playing catchup,” he said Thursday afternoon. “Things happen. We were out sanding and all of a sudden it snowed again and covered (previously sanded areas) up. It took us a little while to get back to those areas.”
Jones said the streets were fairly drivable for most of the day Thursday as the thin powdery snow was mostly blowing around the streets. But after that snow thawed and refroze, it created a sheet of slick ice that made driving more tenuous. Although Jones said his crews would continue to sand the roads, he advised local drivers to exercise caution behind the wheel in winter weather.
“If you don’t have to be out on it, don’t get out on it,” he said. “If you do have to be out on it, make sure you go slow enough and try to stay on the dry spots. If you come up on a patch of snow, try to slow down before you get on top of it. If you start spinning or going sideways, turn into the (swerve) slightly.”
Fourth episode of icy conditions in area since November
By CLINT FOSTER
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