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Central Texas in icy grip

Central Texas in icy grip

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Thursday’s arctic blast that caused icy road conditions forced closures of schools, basketball games, governmental offices, vaccine clinics, roadways and even the postponement of a straw drop organized to keep dogs warm outside.

While weather forecasters are saying Central Texas could enjoy a brief respite with warmer and drier conditions Friday, they are predicting record low temperatures in the single digits and snow Sunday night and Monday morning.

Waco and Central Texas can expect a 10% chance of drizzle Saturday, but the real change will blow in Sunday afternoon or early evening, said Patricia Sanchez, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. Snow is expected, with lows Sunday night in the teens and a high in the upper teens. Lows are expected to dip into single digits Monday night and Tuesday morning, she said.

That would break the record low of 16 for Feb. 16, she said. The lowest recorded high temperature for that day is 37, which also should be broken with the high Monday expected to be 18, she said. The high Tuesday is projected to be 28.

Eric Chatham, a wrecker driver for Big Boys’ Wrecker Service, was operating on four hours’ sleep Thursday afternoon. He said the company’s eight wreckers had towed 10 cars by Thursday afternoon, starting at 1 a.m. Thursday when someone ran off the roadway on Estates Drive.

“Every wrecker has been on back-to-back calls, and it is only going to get worse,” Chatham said. “We expect three more days of it.”

Waco police Officer Garen Bynum reported three wrecks at Highway 6 and Bagby Avenue at 7 a.m. Thursday and said officers were working a steady stream of accidents most of the day. Waco police worked an accident on the Twin Bridges over Lake Waco about 3:30 p.m. that closed down the roadway for a while, Bynum said.

Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Ryan Howard said troopers also were working dozens of accidents Thursday as roadways and bridges started to ice over.

A rollover crash about 1:30 p.m. on Interstate 35 in the area of Exit 318 near Lorena caused traffic to be diverted and delayed for about four hours, Howard reported.

Bynum, Howard and Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Jake Smith advised all Central Texans who can stay home to do so during this inclement weather. If not, they ask motorists to plan ahead, leave more time to reach their destination, slow down and provide ample spacing between vehicles.

The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic and call center, along with a host of city and county offices, closed early Thursday. City officials said the vaccine clinic will reopen at 11 a.m. Friday. Anyone who had Thursday afternoon appointments may come to the clinic on Friday or Saturday at the same time as their originally scheduled appointment. Anyone with a Friday appointment time before 11 a.m. may arrive at the clinic any time after 11 a.m., according to a city press release.

A straw drop sponsored by the Humane Society of Central Texas was postponed Thursday night because of the weather, but it is expected to resume at 6 p.m. Friday at the Lowe’s parking lot in Waco. Anyone who needs straw for their dog’s outdoor shelter can come by and pick up straw for their outdoor animals.

Pet owners with no straw or insulation for their pets’ shelter should bring them inside until temperatures at least are above freezing, Humane Society of Central Texas Executive Director Paula Rivadeneira said in a press release.

“They can keep the dogs safe in a spare bathroom or laundry room if they do not have a kennel,” Rivadeneira wrote. “This may be an inconvenience and they might make a mess or chew things up, but keeping them indoors right now could save their life.”

Anyone who needs help with their dogs can email hsctxwaco@gmail.com or call Waco Pets Alive at 300-8575.

The forecast for widespread record low temperatures has regulators and electricity producers bracing for a new record peak winter power demand for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas grid, which serves most of Texas. The Public Utility Commission of Texas, ERCOT, and other power industry organizations are making preparations to ensure adequate resources are available, according to a commission press release Thursday.

“While people often associate the dog days of summer with high electricity consumption, plummeting temperatures predicted for the next few days will place significant demand on the ERCOT grid,” commission Chair DeAnn Walker said in the press release. “The electric system response under stress will, as always, require significant coordination between the commission, ERCOT and all entities responsible for providing safe and reliable power.”

The highest demand is expected Monday morning, according to the press release.

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