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Icy winter weather causes flight cancellations, school closures across Texas

By Alex Nguyen, The Texas Tribune

Icy winter weather causes flight cancellations, school closures across Texas” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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A dayslong winter storm warning in Texas is already disrupting travel plans and closing schools, but state officials say the power grid is holding up.

According to the National Weather Service, tens of millions of people in Texas and mid-South states are expected to experience “an extensive and very dangerous ice storm” over the next few days due to a mixture of arctic air and a surge in moisture.

Texans are likely to be among the hardest hit. Since Monday morning, most of North and Central Texas has been under a winter weather warning that is likely to last until midday Wednesday. On top of freezing temperatures, this area is expected to see significant icy conditions — including potentially up to half an inch of ice or sleet — that could derail travel plans and cause localized power outages.

“The most likely corridor of icing with a mixture of sleet will occur from west-central Texas to the Tennessee and Lower Ohio Valleys,” said the agency’s forecast on Monday.

In addition, other parts of the state including Central, East and Southeast Texas could also see significant rainfall and flash fooding later in the week.

Across the country, various airlines have already canceled and delayed thousands of flights on Monday and Tuesday. According to CNN, the majority of cancellations have happened at airports in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Similarly, many of the affected flights belong to Texas-based companies like American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, the latter of which has already been facing federal scrutiny over its holiday meltdown.

On the ground, local public safety agencies have also cautioned Texans to limit their traveling, particularly due to “icy bridges and slick roadways.”

“Avoid travel if you can, but if you have to get out, watch out for ice/black ice, make sure to give yourself plenty of time and to slow down while driving,” the National Weather Service in Fort Worth tweeted Monday afternoon.

These warnings have led some organizations to close or reschedule events. Various independent school districts from Dallas to Austin to Boerne have canceled after-school activities on Monday, as well as cancelling classes and closing offices for Tuesday. Major universities like the University of Texas at Austin have also done the same.

Similarly, the Texas Legislature has advised lawmakers and staff not to travel until they can do so safely. For the House, Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said in a Monday memorandum that the chamber will “convene very briefly” Tuesday afternoon and then adjourn until Friday morning. And according to state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, the Senate won’t meet on Tuesday.

State officials are also monitoring the state’s power grid, though it has shown little sign of trouble so far.

Public Utility Commission of Texas Chair Peter Lake has urged Texans to “monitor and report local power outages.” But he expects that power would be more likely to go out locally due to falling trees or heavy ice accumulation, rather than grid failures.

“We expect to have sufficient generation to meet the power demands of Texas during this winter weather,” Lake said in a Monday press release. “Our biggest concern is power line safety, especially in areas that experience icing.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott said he has ordered the Texas Division of Emergency Management to boost the state’s readiness level and mobilize resources for emergency response. He will also hold a press conference Tuesday morning in Austin to discuss the state’s dangerous winter conditions.

“The State of Texas is working tirelessly to ensure Texans and their communities have the resources, assistance, and support needed to respond to winter weather impacts across the state,” Abbott said in a separate Monday press release.

Disclosure: University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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