Bulletin Staff Report
The sun came out and temperatures rose into the 40s on Friday, giving motorists stranded or delayed by a Christmas Eve snowstorm across North Texas hope that all was clear on area highways.
That wasn’t necessarily the case.
The southern edge of a Midwest snow storm that left the Brownwood area with 2 to 3 inches of a white Christmas Thursday resulted in situations that will make this holiday memorable to many travelers for the wrong reasons.
Most roads and highways in the immediate Brownwood area remained open, though some were hazardous, as the snow started Thursday morning and then began sticking around midday. A handful of one-vehicle accidents that were weather-related were investigated in Brown County. But it was a much worse scenario north of Brownwood.
Roadblocks erected Thursday on Interstate 20 east of Eastland were removed Friday, but the Texas Department of Public Safety was still discouraging travel into areas north of Brownwood because conditions remain hazardous, Senior Trooper Sparky Dean of the Texas Highway Patrol-Education Division of the DPS in Abilene, said Friday afternoon.
Traffic moving east and west on I-20 was proceeding slowly due to patchy ice still on the roadway.
“Troopers around the Big Country are being swamped with traffic crashes,” Dean said. “The beautiful sunshine has brought driver onto the ice-patched covered roadways. Officials are cautioning that (Friday night), wet roads will once again freeze up and become a traffic problem.”
Conditions are expected to improve into the weekend as roadways dry, but low temperatures are expected to dip below freezing each night at least into the middle of next week, according to the National Weather Service forecast.
On Thursday afternoon, eastbound traffic on I-20 was turned back at Abilene, Baird and west of Cisco in order to give Texas Department of Transportation crews time to sand roadways. Drivers were given the option of detouring through Brownwood, although roadways on that route were also hazardous, Dean said. Westbound I-20 traffic was stopped at Ranger Hill, sent back east to Weatherford. Shelters were open on Thursday night in Eastland, Cisco, Baird, Putnam and Clyde.
At one point, more than 200 vehicles were stranded along I-20 Thursday afternoon, Dean said.
Dean said motels that had few reservations for Thursday night filled quickly put up “no vacancy” signs.
Ranger Hill opened around sunrise Friday, Dead said. Still, on some stretches of the highway, motorists found that moving at 5 mph was dangerous, although in other areas 30 to 40 was possible.
Dean said some travelers made complaints that they had not seen any “rescue vehicles” in the affected areas.
“Most of the Texas Highway Patrol units had been parked and the troopers had ‘partnered’ with volunteer firefighters using four-wheel drive vehicles in order to get around on the icy roadways,” Dean said. “However, these vehicles were also experiencing problems on ice. The Texas Highway Patrol has been on scene since 7 a.m. on Christmas Eve. We will continue to work with these conditions as things get better.”