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Public Safety

Early Friday Morning Report
by Jim O'Donnel
Friday, February 04, 2011

1:30 a.m. CST, Friday, February 4, 2011


This is a special update early Friday morning on the winter storm impacting Southeast Texas.


...A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for all of Southeast Texas including the Houston/Galveston area until Noon CST today.  A Winter Storm Warning means that a a significant winter storm or hazardous winter weather is occurring, imminent, or likely, and is a threat to life and property...


...A wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain has begun across Southeast Texas early this morning and the potential exists for significant snow and/or ice accumulations with the winter storm expected to wind down late this morning or early this afternoon.  In addition, the possibility exists for a few isolated, high based thunderstorms that could enhance accumulations of snow or ice at some locations...


...Numerous traffic accidents are starting to occur in Southeast Texas including the Houston/Galveston area where some highways have now been closed.  Further highway and road closings are likely as the situation steadily worsens this morning...


...Elsewhere in South Texas, ice and snow has also led to numerous accidents and caused the closure of numerous highways.  Within the past hour, ALL HIGHWAYS IN THE CITY OF SAN ANTONIO HAVE BEEN CLOSED...


A mixed bag of wintry precipitation consisting of rain/drizzle, freezing rain/freezing drizzle, ice pellets (sleet) and snow has begun in earnest across most of Southeast Texas early this Friday morning.  Light snow is falling in Brenham, Caldwell and Crockett while a mixture of sleet and freezing rain is falling in most other Southeast Texas cities.


It appears that the threat of significant ice accumulation is occurring at locations much further inland and with greater rapidity than was previously expected.  As a result, roads and highways are beginning to be closed in the local area as they are quickly becoming iced over.


At 1:25 a.m. freezing rain was occurring in Jamaica Beach with a temperature of 30.4 degrees.  A glaze of ice is rapidly forming on all exposed objects and will begin accumulating on Galveston Island roadways very soon.  Please note that the freezing rain sensor on the automated weather observing system at Scholes International Airport in Galveston is out of service at this time.


As of 1:00 a.m. CST...the Sam Houston Tollway (Beltway 8) at the Southwest Freeway (US-59) in the Stafford/SW Houston area has been closed.  US-59 has also been closed in Wharton and the Katy Freeway (IH-10) at Greenhouse Rd near Katy in west Harris County has been closed.  Ice is also accumulating on roads in the Bryan/College Station area including the Texas A&M campus.


Further west, a band of moderate to heavy snow extends from the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex southward through Waco, Temple/Killeen and into the Austin/San Antonio metropolitan area.  South and east of these areas, freezing rain and sleet continues from Victoria southward to Laredo, Corpus Christi and Brownsville.


The Corpus Christi Fire Department responded to 75 incidents in a 3-hour period Thursday night.  Large portions of IH-35, US-59, US-77 and Highway 186 have been closed.  Multiple highway and road closures have already occurred or are currently in progress between San Antonio, Victoria and Houston.  The National Weather Service Office in New Braunfels has advised that ALL HIGHWAYS IN THE CITY OF SAN ANTONIO ARE NOW CLOSED.


My expected precipitation types, snow and ice accumulations are now updated to account for more significant ice accumulations as follows:



Galveston Island, Texas City, League City, Anahuac, High Island, Freeport, Angleton:


Precipitation types:  Wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain with some snow.

Snow accumulations:  average of 1/2 to 1 inch...with a few isolated 2 inch totals.    

Ice accumulations:  average of 1/10 to 1/4 of an inch...a few totals to 1/2 of an inch possible.


Greatest potential of ice accumulation:


Gulf Freeway (IH-45) - Galveston Causeway;

State Highway 146 - Dickinson Bayou Bridge, Kemah/Seabrook Bridge.




Houston, Katy, Sugar Land, Humble, Alvin, Wharton, Victoria, Columbus:


Precipitation types:  Wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain with some snow.

Snow accumulations:  average of 1 to 2 inches...with a few isolated 3 inch totals.    

Ice accumulations:  average of 1/10 to 1/4 of an inch...a few totals to 1/2 of an inch possible.


Greatest potential of ice accumulation:


State Highway 146 - Kemah/Seabrook Bridge and Fred Hartman Bridge;

Beltway 8 - Ship Channel (Jones) Toll Bridge;

Loop 610  - Ship Channel Bridge at the Port of Houston.




Columbus, Navasota, The Woodlands, Conroe, Huntsville, Cleveland, Livingston, Coldspring:


Precipitation types:  Primarily snow with some sleet and freezing rain.

Snow accumulations:  average of 2 to 3 inches...with a few isolated 4 to 5 inch totals.    

Ice accumulations:  1/10 to 1/4 of an inch possible.




Note:  The above amounts assume precipitation falling from a stratiform cloud layer.  Any embedded elevated convective development (thunderstorms) will have the potential to produce locally enhanced ice and snow accumulations.



Driving conditions are quickly deteriorating throughout Southeast Texas.  Surface temperatures are currently at or below freezing in the Houston/Galveston area.  Rapid ice and/or snow accumulation particularly on elevated surfaces such as bridges and overpasses is occurring.  Approach these areas with an abundance of extreme caution and assume they are iced over even if you can't see the ice.


If you don't have to be out on the road for a very compelling reason, please stay home.  If you must drive, remember to take a survival kit that includes a cell phone, blankets, drinking water and flashlights.  If you're involved in an accident, remember that police, fire and EMS will probably be responding to hundreds of others at the same time so you may be waiting awhile for assistance.  Be patient and move your vehicle off the roadway if you can.


I will send out another update later this morning.


Jim O'Donnel

Remembering Jim Guidry

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