Death toll rises, power outages skyrocket as relentless ice storm wreaks havoc in Texas, mid-South for 3rd day

The storm that has been sliding across the region is the result of a bitter blast of arctic air that was in place across the central U.S. and is expected to continue to have lingering impacts across the region through Thursday.

DALLAS – At least seven people have been killed in Texas and another person was killed in Arkansas as a crippling ice storm wreaked havoc on the Lone Star State and mid-South, plunging more than 300,000 utility customers into darkness.

The storm that has been sliding across the region is the result of a bitter blast of arctic air that was in place across the central U.S. and is expected to continue to have a lingering impacts across the region through Thursday.


Treacherous travel leads to deadly crashes across Texas

Driving proved nearly impossible for millions of people to begin the workweek in the Lone Star State. Rain fell through the warm air aloft to the freezing surface below, which then created a sheet of ice on roads across the region from Texas to Tennessee.

"Bridges and overpasses are considered treacherous," White Settlement, Texas, police Chief Christopher Cook said in a tweet Monday. "People must slow down when approaching elevated surfaces."


The Arlington Police Department in Texas said a 45-year-old man was killed after being thrown from his vehicle when he lost control while driving over the Green Oaks Boulevard overpass at unsafe speeds. 

Police said he crashed into a guardrail, the vehicle went airborne and then rolled down an embankment. Police said they don't believe he was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.

Austin-Travis County EMS said another person was killed in a crash involving at least 10 vehicles in Austin.

And according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, a woman was driving northbound on U.S. 277 late Tuesday night when she lost control of her vehicle due to the icy conditions and crashed into a tree about 8 miles north of Eldorado.

Slick roads were also blamed for a single vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 380 Tuesday morning. DPS said the driver of a Dodge Ram pickup truck lost control overturning the vehicle. Three people were reported killed and one was transported to a local hospital with injuries. 

The Wolfforth Police Department was also investing a deadly crash involving a student, just outside of Lubbock.

The local school district released a statement following the crash: Ropes ISD is asking for the prayers of our community and the surrounding communities as we mourn the loss of one of our kids, who passed in a car accident this morning. We all know that our kids lives are precious, and each child is loved. Every child of God is valued, and we are extremely saddened by this loss. We pray for this family, the school and the community.

On Tuesday morning, FOX 4 Dallas reported hundreds of drivers were stuck in a 20-mile traffic backup on Interstate 20 in Palo Pinto and Parker counties because of icy road conditions.

And a terrifying incident unfolded in Travis County, Texas, on Tuesday morning when a Travis County Sheriff's Office deputy was hit by a tractor-trailer and became pinned beneath one of its tires.

The deputy was freed by EMS personnel and taken to a local hospital, where he underwent surgery. Officials said he is expected to survive.

"I want to offer my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who responded and assisted this deputy in his time of dire need. Both his biological and TCSO family are relieved and thankful that he’s alive," Sheriff Sally Hernandez said. "Please, please don’t drive on these icy roadways. It’s not worth your life or the lives of the first responders who are literally putting their personal safety on the line."


Flights canceled, schools closed

Thousands of flights into and out of the region were also heavily impacted because of the crippling effects of the ice storm, with Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) leading the pack with the most cancelations and delays.

The Federal Aviation Administration also issued a ground stop at the airport on Tuesday because of the ice, which led to numerous delays.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) said the airport was still open, and crews are continuing to treat ice on roadways and walkways. Flight cancelations and delays continue, so passengers are urged to check their flight status before heading to the airport.

And schools across the region made the decision to let students go home early or close schools altogether. This included both the Fort Worth Independent School District and the Austin Independent School District.

In addition, Oklahoma State University made the decision to temporarily close its campus. 


Power outages skyrocket

The power outage tracker.
(FOX Weather)


As ice continues to build, or accrete, this can spell trouble for power lines as they become coated in increasingly thicker layers of ice. 

Ice accretions of less than a quarter-inch are generally considered to be a nuisance, but impacts start to become disruptive once amounts close in on a half-inch or more. At around a half-inch, power outages can become numerous.

On Tuesday night, about 30,000 outages were reported across the region, but by Wednesday morning, those numbers skyrocketed.

Outage numbers consistently rose overnight, and the outage number was around 300,000.

"It's going to be rubbing salt in the wound because temperatures are going to stay below freezing, and those power lines are picking up more and more of an accretion of ice," FOX Weather winter storm specialist Tom Niziol said.

Power outages may lead some to resort to non-electric methods for staying warm. However, the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services urges caution. 

ATCEMS is warning people not to use stoves, ovens or grills to try and heat homes when the power goes out. Emergency officials said they had received a call for carbon monoxide exposure, which can be deadly.

Anyone using a generator for electricity to heat their homes should also follow proper safety precautions.

Ice Storm Warnings remain in effect until at least Thursday, and they extend from Del Rio at the Texas-Mexico border northward through Fort Stockton and Midland. Ice Storm Warnings are also in effect in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, northeastward into parts of southeastern Oklahoma, central and southern Arkansas, including Little Rock, and into Memphis, Tennessee.

Winter Storm Warnings are in effect from Waco to Austin and San Antonio, while Winter Weather Advisories are in effect to the north in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Additional ice accretion of up to a half-inch is expected across much of central and north-central Texas and parts of southern Arkansas. A quarter-inch of ice accretion is possible across larger areas, including southern Oklahoma, most of Arkansas and far West Tennessee.