Houston prepares for second round of winter weather

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter, Mark Boyle - Reporter, Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter, Keith Garvin - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - There is no doubt both the city of Houston and Harris County have taken steps Monday to prepare for winter weather Tuesday after a Winter Storm Warning was issued for our area.

Just before 4 a.m. Tuesday the Winter Storm Warning expired and the National Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory for our area.

The city and the county are on the same page in many areas, including spraying bridges with a supposedly helpful anti-freezing agent.

Mayor Annise Parker Monday evening made the announcement that City of Houston will close all non-public services on Tuesday. Only "essential" services will be operational.

Parker said her decision was made largely based on most area school district's decision to close. She wanted to make sure most parents would be able to be home with their kids.

This will include the closure of libraries, service centers, courts and park facilities.

Harris County buildings will also be closed Tuesday. That means jury summons and commissioners court will be cancelled. The county's Office of Emergency Management moved to a Level 3 readiness level at 5 a.m. and plans to move to a higher Level 2 at 5 a.m.

"If we just keep people out of harm's way and keep them off the roads," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, "then should lessen the likelihood of property damage and especially loss of life."
With the increased chance of accidents emergency responders are also sending out a plea to those who have to be on the roadways.

"If you are on the road, think about the first responders and the people we're trying to get to to help out," said Houston Fire Chief Terry Garrison. "If you hear sirens and see flashing lights please pull over for us."

Deja vu from Friday?

After a long weekend because of Friday's ice day, students woke up Monday morning wondering if Tuesday's weather will mean another day off. But forecasters have warned that everyone should stay on alert.

The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning starting early Tuesday morning and will continue throughout the day for 23 counties. With the potential the storm could bring snow, sleet and ice for several hours as the temperature drops below freezing, TxDOT crews are pre-treating bridges and overpasses on Monday with magnesium chloride, which is used to minimize freezing due to accumulated water on roadways.

"With the temperature projected to drop to the low 30s, we do anticipate some freezing; however, the pretreatment will allow us to recover the facility faster," said Houston District Engineer Michael W. Alford.

Motorists should use caution when driving around the crews throughout the day. TxDOT says elevated structures such as bridges and overpasses are most likely to freeze first.

Judge Emmett said Monday afternoon that all county offices will be closed Tuesday.

In addition, the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will move to Level 3- Increased Readiness at 5 p.m. this afternoon and to Level 2 - High Readiness at 5 a.m. Tuesday. Level 2 (High Readiness) means hazardous conditions exist or are imminent and pose a significant threat to life and/or property.

Dangerous roads possible

Last Friday's frigid freeze-down turned bridges and ramps into skating rinks, sent cars swerving and sliding everywhere, and had traffic on many roads just crawling along for hours.

Houston's Emergency Operations Center officials said Friday between 9 a.m. and noon there were more than 500 crashes and 180 injuries that required transport on icy roads.

Sunday night, the tennis players at the Westside Tennis Club sat back after their matches, glad they were able to get some good hitting in, but very leery about what's coming Tuesday.

"I hear it's going to be terrible, with cold and wet and icy and freezing conditions," said Jenna Alcott.

TxDOT says their one priority is the safety of the traveling public. 

With the threat of sleet, ice and freezing rain, TxDOT strongly advises drivers to stay off the roads as much as possible through Wednesday. If drivers must be on the road, TxDOT has the following safety tips:

  • Reduce speed
  • Increase following distance
  • Use extra caution on bridges, ramps, overpasses
  • Stay back at least 200 feet from vehicles treating roadways
  • If you start to slide, ease off the gas pedal or brakes and steer into the direction of the skid
  • Avoid unnecessary travel

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