Arctic blast hits southeast Texas

February 1, 2011 7:57:19 PM PST
A major blast of cold air has made its way into southeast Texas and there is even a slight chance for snow by the end of the week. An arctic front has arrived, sending temperatures plummeting from the 60s early this morning into the 30s. While we are currently not forecasting a pipe-bursting freeze in Houston, a hard freeze is likely north of Houston. Temperatures on Wednesday through Friday will likely climb above freezing, but won't make it out of the 30s.

The Texas Department of Transportation tells us their employees are now in what they call 'increased readiness mode.' What that means is that they are watching the roadways and keeping a close eye on areas that are likely to ice over during a winter weather event like the one we are bracing for in our area.

Tuesday and Wednesday are the days when they are the most concerned about ice on the roads. They have already sent out trucks ahead of the cold, spraying magnesium chloride anti-icing solution on those overpasses and bridges that have a history of icing. Those spots are:

  • State Highway 105 west from Loop 336 to the Grimes County line
  • FM 1097 from FM 149 east to State Highway 75
  • The 45 North Woodlands flyover
  • State Highway 242 at the San Jacinto River

Crews will spray de-icer on other areas as needed.

"If you don't have to be on the roadway, you know, try to avoid moving around in those time frames where the potential for ice is greatest and so that is usually in the early hours of the morning. If you can avoid, then we encourage motorists to do so," said TxDOT spokesperson Raquelle Lewis.

On Tuesday, HISD building crews began checking heaters at schools to make sure they are ready to keep kids warm for the next several days. HISD's Athletics Department is canceling all soccer games Tuesday through Friday. All other games (basketball, wrestling) will be played as planned.

Also the Star of Hope Mission is on a 'cold weather alert,' meaning shelters will be adding extra beds for the homeless as well as handing out coats and blankets.

At 8am, CenterPoint utility crews are heading up to Oklahoma to help with the ice storm there.

Right now, it's also a good reminder to protect your pipes if they may be vulnerable to temperatures in the 20's, which are cold enough to freeze pipes.

As for snow, it's possible on Friday, but everything has to line up just right for that to happen. If it does snow this week, it would be a record-setting third winter in a row for measurable snowfall in Houston. It snowed 1.4" on December 12, 2008, 1.0" on December 4th, 2009, and a trace on February 23, 2010.

Major issues at Houston airports

The storm that blew into Texas this morning forced the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to shut down. Many of those flights had to be redirected to Houston and that's just one of the issues passengers are dealing with.

Our weather prevented planes from landing in Houston. Some were diverted first to Austin, and are starting to land now. The snow, sleet, and freezing rain in the northeast, according to Continental Airlines, has forced the airline to suspend its operations to and from Newark Liberty until noon Wednesday. Continental has pre-canceled 650 flights, United has canceled 800.

Cleveland, Ohio is also experiencing major snow and rain. The warning says Continental is that many flights have been canceled. Hobby also had a ground stop from 6:50am to 7:10am on Tuesday which is affecting flights there, and Hobby flights are being affected by weather in Philadelphia, according to the FAA.

Delays departing from and arriving at Hobby are over an hour, with 11 cancellations. We met several Dallas-bound passengers affected because DFW was shut down briefly earlier Tuesday, and the backlog hasn't cleared. The Houston Airport System says 19 flights were diverted from Bush. The average arrival delay is an hour, but most are longer for departures that delay average is 45 minutes.

"Our tickets have been changed to Thursday and depending on the weather in Chicago, who knows?" said passenger Ruth Davis.

So the word from the airport system is to call your carrier.

"I just found out that my flight to Dallas has just been canceled," said passenger Bruce Hartley.

"I checked in and I have no flight. There's no standby; All the standbys are taken. I have no flight," said passenger Tammie Bergen. "I can hopefully get out of here at 9 o'clock tonight."

Again, the best advice is to call ahead. By the way, Continental says it will give passengers waivers so at least it won't cost you anything.