Icy, cold travel weather closes some Texas schools

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Associated Press

Posted on January 25, 2014 at 1:02 PM

HOUSTON (AP) — Icy conditions in Central and South Texas resulted in an unscheduled day off Friday for a quarter-million Lone Star State students.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Houston, San Antonio and Austin areas until midday Friday as temperatures hovered just below freezing. The wet, wintry conditions had moved out of San Antonio and Austin by late morning.

The weather was forecast to improve by Saturday, and Austin and San Antonio could see a return to temperatures in the 70s by Sunday, forecasters said.

The biggest problem was a light freezing rain and sleet that left freeway overpasses and bridges ice-covered and slippery. Traffic was lighter than usual, but numerous traffic wrecks were reported, although none involved large numbers of vehicles.

Snow accumulations, no more than an inch or two, appeared to be limited to areas north and west of a line from Brenham to Livingston, well north of Houston. But freezing conditions were reported as far south as Laredo and Corpus Christi.

While freezing rain and snow are not unprecedented in normally balmy South Texas, the cities and counties typically don't command fleets of snowplows and other equipment to help deal with winter driving conditions.

The freezing rain prompted the Houston Independent School District to cancel classes. The state's largest district has more than 210,000 students. The University of Texas at Austin, with more than 50,000 students, also canceled classes Friday due to icy streets, along with Texas State University in San Marcos, about 30 miles south of Austin, and the Austin Independent School District.

The Houston Airport System reported more than 60 flights canceled at Bush Intercontinental Airport through late morning and another 55 at Hobby Airport on the city's south side.

"We have scattered delays in Houston, Austin and San Antonio and a few cancellations," said Whitney Eichinger, a spokeswoman with Dallas-based Southwest Airlines. "The weather is expected to warm up throughout the day, and our schedule should operate close to normal."

Fort Worth-based American Airlines and its regional carriers cancelled about 220 flights Friday due to the weather, according to spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan.

In San Antonio, the bad weather didn't keep thousands of people from attending the annual Cowboy Breakfast Foundation event, which marks the unofficial start to next month's San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.

Volunteers began serving breakfast at 4:30 a.m. to people who already had lined up, Bill Massey, the event chairman, told The San Antonio Express-News.

The tradition began in 1979 with tacos served to a few hundred people from a pickup truck. Crowds lately have reached 50,000 or more, even in bad weather.

"It's little bit lighter than normal," he said Friday. "There's a good crowd here, but not what we normally get."

The menu included 45,000 breakfast tacos and 10,000 tamales.

CPS Energy reported nearly 2,800 customers were without electricity Friday in the San Antonio area as crews worked to restore power. Oncor had about 1,400 outages, mainly in the Dallas area, where temperatures before dawn dipped to the teens.

In Central Texas, Fort Hood's normal operations were suspended for the day because of the hazardous travel conditions. Army officials said only "mission essential" personnel were to report for duty.

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