By JESSIE HORTON
Erath County and surrounding areas will welcome in the new year with cold, winter weather and ice. Forecasters from both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) in Fort Worth are predicting the precipitation will start fall between midnight and 1 a.m., when they say temperatures will be approximately 30ºF.
Chances of precipitation are 20 percent before midnight but increase to 65 percent after the new year begins. Temps are expected to begin dropping, remaining in the 20’s all day Thursday, while chances for precipitation increase to 100 percent around 5 a.m. and continue through sunrise.
Freezing rain is predicted through the day Thursday and into Thursday night. Temps Thursday remain in the low 30’s with the high being 32ºF and only getting to 38ºF Friday. Friday will also see an 80 percent chance of precipitation. The NWS’s winter storm warning will remain in effect for “along and west of a Jacksboro-Stephenville-Goldthwaite line.” A winter weather advisory remains in effect throughout Thursday afternoon north and west of a line from Bonham and Rockwall to Waco and Temple.
According to the release from the NWS, sleet and ice accumulations up to a quarter of an inch and are expected. Other impacts include overpasses, bridges and elevated surfaces, which will all be the first to accumulate. Roads will become slippery as well, according to the NWS, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas Department of Public Service (DPS), who released a warning late Wednesday afternoon to drivers.
“NWS has forecasted a chance of winter weather west of the Metroplex, which may result in hazardous driving conditions. TxDOT is preparing to treat bridges and overpasses on major corridors and state roadways. Drivers are asked to plan ahead and be cautious while traveling in adverse weather,” the release states.
A winter storm warning means significant amounts of snow, sleet and/or ice are expected or occurring in the effected area, and NWS and DPS remind drivers this will make travel hazardous or impossible in some areas.
Other releases from the DPS Wednesday urged drivers to remain off the roadways when at all possible. Erath County officials also released warnings urging drivers to remain cautious in winter weather.
Power outages are also possible during winter weather conditions, and residents are urged to ensure they are prepared for cold weather. Many of the local power companies have websites and Facebook pages to keep customers informed of progress in case of an emergency outage. Find yours before the weather hits.
• Make sure you have a means of staying warm if the electricity goes out.
• Make sure you have enough batteries for flashlights to aid in maneuvering in the dark.
• Make sure you have a battery-powered radio to keep up with changes to the weather.
• Make sure all electronics needed to communicate are charged before weather hits.
According to officials with the various effected areas, Fort Worth area crews, Mineral Wells area crews and Stephenville area crews for TxDOT are prepared with loaded chat trucks and are ready to work 12-hours shifts to keep the roads as safe and clear as possible during the storm. Officials said TxDOT crews will continue to monitor and treat roads as needed.
If you must travel, please follow these precautions:
- Reduce speed. Speed limits are based on normal road and weather conditions, not winter road conditions. Do not use cruise control.
- Maintain at least three times the normal following distance on snow or ice.
- Watch carefully for personnel and equipment treating roadways, and stay at least 200 feet back from road crews.
- Use extra caution on bridges, ramps, overpasses and shaded areas as they tend to freeze first.
- Carry extra warm coats, gloves and boots in case you get stranded.
- If you start to slide, ease off the gas pedal or brakes. Steer into the direction of the skid until you feel you have regained traction, then straighten your vehicle.
More winter weather safety information can be found at www.txdot.gov – key word: winter driving. Road conditions and traffic updates available on Facebook, www.facebook.com/txdot and Twitter, www.twitter.com/txdot. Motorists can obtain travel information by calling (800) 452-9292 or by visiting www.drivetexas.org.