Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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February 11, 2010

Mineral Wells schools closed Friday

As much as 6 inches of snow - more in some areas - blankets North Texas

MINERAL WELLS — As much as 6 inches – more in some areas – of snow blanketed the Mineral Wells area on Thursday, closing schools and some offices and businesses though not causing a lot of serious problems related to driving or utilities.

However, that possibly changed overnight. As the snow came to an end, colder weather settled in. Lows overnight were expected to fall into the mid 20s, meaning any water on the streets would likely freeze. Snow-laden tree limbs could also snap, taking down power lines.

Mineral Wells ISD and Garner ISD made the call Thursday afternoon to go ahead and close Friday. Garner ISD was also closed Thursday while Mineral Wells ISD opened at 8 a.m., but then closed at 10 a.m.

Some parents in the Mineral Wells ISD were not happy about Thursday morning’s events.

“After parents scrambled around to safely get their children to school, MWISD then decided to close the schools at 10 a.m., at which (time) the conditions had grown more severe,” Shayne Tipton told the Index. “I understand that the school district has to account for their students in order to receive proper funding from the state, however, has it come to a point where our children are less important than the MWISD’s funding. Mineral Wells has some of the worst road conditions in North Texas without bad weather. For MWISD to go ahead and decide to have the school’s opened when the conditions were ridiculous, showed to me that numbers are more important than our children’s safety.”

Mineral Wells ISD Superintendent Ronny Collins told the Index a decision must be made around 6 a.m. on whether to open to give buses time to run their routes and get students to school by the 8 a.m. bells.

“We started looking at the roads at about 4:30 a.m.,” Collins stated. “We also network with the other schools in the county, Palo Pinto, Santo, Graford and Millsap. We all decided at 6 (Thursday) morning to try and have school.”

Collins said at the time of the decision to open it was 33 degrees and “the roads were slushy, but still drivable.”

He said around 8 a.m. “it started coming down faster than it was melting on the roads, so we made the decision to go ahead and send the kids home. The other schools (made) similar decisions.”

Collins said the decision to go ahead and open was not a financial one – so that the district could collect its state allocated daily attendance funds.

“It was about the requirement to have school if we can,” Collins stated. “At six this morning it looked like we could get everybody here and get through the day. The situation got worse than projected, so we adapted to the situation and sent everyone home.”

Mineral Wells Junior High canceled its planned Valentine’s Day dance and Thursday night’s junior high basketball games.

Tonight’s home high school basketball games against Aledo remained scheduled as planned as of Thursday evening. Soccer games were moved to Saturday.

Boyce Ditto Public Library closed its doors on Thursday.

Garner ISD and Perrin-Whitt CISD made the decision early to close their schools on Thursday, and GISD Superintendent Marion Ferguson decided to Thursday afternoon to close the school today as well. Other districts were considering delayed openings of 10 a.m.

Thomas Martinez of J&S wrecking service said they began receiving calls for a tow truck around 5:30 a.m. and worked calls with their two trucks pretty steadily throughout the morning. It slowed around early afternoon, though Martinez said it was beginning to pick up again around 3 p.m.

They mostly worked to free trapped vehicles from ditches, though they also worked a few accidents, according to Martinez.

By mid-afternoon, Cross Tire and Automotive reported three calls Thursday for wrecker service but was preparing for icy weather expected overnight.

Mineral Wells police and Palo Pinto County deputies reportedly responded to several calls reporting vehicles gone off the road. 

Texas Department of Transportation reportedly had six sanding trucks and two blading trucks out Thursday morning helping make the slushy streets, especially the hills and bridges, more passable.

Several streets with steep hills, including Mesquite Street, Travis Drive, N.W. 10th Street, N.E. 23rd Street at Farm-to-Market Road 1821, were barricaded to keep traffic out. 

“Right now, there’s a little bit of snow build up on the lines,” Ken Harriss, area manager with Oncor, said late Thursday morning. “There’s no major outages right now.”

Many students spent the day playing after Mineral Wells Independent School District let out at 10 a.m.

Neighbors Aaron Meeks, Juan Saucedo, Jacob Sessum, Marcos Garcia, Luke Sessum, and Blaine Schultz free from classes at Mineral Wells High School and Weatherford College gathered Thursday morning to build their annual giant snow man at the intersection of North Murco Drive and South Murco Drive.

They strained to the lift a several hundred pound snowball on top of the base before deciding to put in place in sections.

“Last year we built one that was eight feet,” Meeks said.

 But the fun wasn’t only limited to children or teenagers, as several adult residents of Western Hills took advantage of the steep hill in their neighborhood. Teresa Smith and Mark Diaz sledded down Mesquite Street, blocked off because of the hazardous driving conditions. 

It wasn’t all fun and games with the snow, though.

Debbie Youngblood said she was inside her house in the 5000 block of U.S. Highway 281 North when she heard a loud noise and found her wooden carport collapsed from the snow.

 Her Toyota Sequoya was crushed in the fall, according to Youngblood.

 “I didn’t think anything about it until it came crashing down,” Youngblood said. 

The overhead carport at Real Deal Tree on S.E. 1st Street in Mineral Wells was also unable to hold up to the weight of the snow on top of it.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area received 3 to 4 inches of snow, and the Abilene area received 1 to 3 inches, the National Weather Service said. Snow also fell in Amarillo and Lubbock, the weather service said.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines and American Eagle airlines canceled 815 flights systemwide as of midday Thursday, including 305 at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, said spokeswoman Andrea Huguely. The weather affected more than 20 percent of American’s daily flight schedule.

American spokesman Steve Schlachter said much of the backup was linked to weather problems along the East Coast.

“We’re deicing at the rate of 20 planes an hour here in Dallas,” he said. He advised travelers to check with the airline about possible delays.

Southwest Airlines, whose main hub is Dallas Love Field, advised travelers that many Thursday flights out of the Baltimore-Washington, Philadelphia and New York City areas had been canceled due to weather.

Lubbock was expected to get 3 to 5 more inches of snow through late Thursday, NWS said. A winter storm warning was in effect for parts of northern Texas.

Meanwhile, rainy weather forced the cancellation of Mardi Gras festivities in Port Arthur, in southeast Texas. Temperatures there were in the 40s, the weather service said.

Index staff writer Christin Coyne, editor David May and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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