Local residents were surprised by the sudden appearance of ice on area trees and bushes as a loud thunderstorm rolled through the area. After a high of 70 degrees at midnight, temperatures had been dropping since the winds had shifted from south to north about 7 a.m. with gusts up to 18 mph. By noon, the air was 37 degrees and drizzling.
When the thunderstorm hit about 3:30 p.m., ice began forming on elevated surfaces. The meteorologists had forecasted freezing conditions after dark and some had expected icing along the I-30 corridor. Already flights were being canceled at the Dallas-area airports.
In Upshur County, trees began to break under the burden of ice. Pines, magnolias and cedars broke as expected, but elms laden with spring blossoms and seeds also cluttered yards and sagged on powerlines. Many customers started losing power as early as 4:30 p.m. while the rest of northwest Gilmer was blacked out by 6 p.m.
Gilmer schools were canceled Monday due to the power outage, but resumed Tuesday.
Instead of the I-30 corridor receiving the ice as predicted, the ice hit I-20 and I-45, trapping travelers as vehicles skidded out of control. By Tuesday the ice had slipped southward toward College Station and Houston.
In East Texas, icing from the Wood County line to New Diana extended south through Longview and Holly Lake, on to the I-20 corridor. Upshur Rural-Electric Cooperative had more than 20,000 customers to lose power in this approximately 500 square mile area.
Roads which were still warm from Saturday’s near 80 degree weather remained clear in many areas of Gilmer, and most highways had a strip free of ice extending out from the city. Melting which began on Monday came from residual ground heat as the air temperature never passed freezing.
The airport weather station froze at 4:10 p.m. Sunday at 25 degrees. Individuals reported readings of 17-19 degrees Monday morning but the official station has no record for March 3 and early March 4. By noon Tuesday, the sun was breaking through and generally melting had begun.
According to America Electric Power-SWEPCO division, Sunday’s ice storm knocked out power to 28,000 customers, with 26,000 of those in East Texas, primarily in Longview, Gladewater and Gilmer. The Longview peak of outages reached 18,350 at 10 p.m. Sunday, with Gladewater’s peak at midnight of 4,200, and Gilmer area peak was 2,620 at midnight Sunday.
By 10 a.m. Tuesday, SWEPCO sent out an update on the outages, with 50 customers in Kilgore and 154 in Henderson added on Monday no longer on the list of those without power. Some 5,500 customers remained without power with Longview having 2,505 customers without power with noon Tuesday the projected completion of restoration. In Gladewater, SWEPCO still had 2,302 customers without power with the expectation they would be restored by noon Wednesday afternoon, Gilmer had 707 customers to be restored by noon Tuesday.
About 370 resources are working in the affected areas to restore power Tuesday, with expected warmer temps around 40 degrees. Additional resources had arrived from Texarkana (SWEPCO) and PSO (Public Service Company of OK) inMcAlester to assist those SWEPCO crews from Fayetteville, Shreveport and Natchitoches areas in storm restoration. There are 180 external resources (contract linemen and tree crew personnel) working in this total number.
For Upshur Rural, outages included the areas around Glenwood, Noonday, Harmony, Gilmer, Holly Lake and points south of Hwy 154. Nine crews have come in from outside the area to help.
By Tuesday morning, the number of customers without service was reduced to 5,000 at 10 a.m.
It was the hope to have majority of customers restored by nightfall Tuesday. Then crews would seek to restore individuals still out due to localized limbs on lines and other causes.