What you need to know about Austin weather Saturday: Brace for the worst on Sunday, forecaster says

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DAY 1 OF FREEZE:Road travel turns deadly, Central Texas schools shuttered amid freeze that could strain power grid

DAY 2 OF FREEZE:Thousands remain without power; Valentine's Day snow possible

Another cold and blustery day. An upper level disturbance will provide a chance for patchy freezing rain and sleet to the area today and this evening. Some icy spots could occur on roadways.


Brace for the worst, forecaster says

University of Texas meteorology lecturer Troy Kimmel on Saturday afternoon said Central Texas should prepare for worse weather over the next few days.

Light freezing drizzle, which was being reported across Austin, was likely to "compound the icy situation on elevated bridges and overpasses," he said in an email to subscribers of his weather outlook.

Kimmel said a series of storms will pass through the region — light rain Saturday night, a much stronger storm Sunday night, and more precipitation Wednesday. But "as each one passes, additional arctic cold air will be dislodged from the plains and allowed to drop into Texas," he said.

"As each disturbance approaches and moves by, we'll see wintry precipitation move overhead with additional ice and/or snow accumulations likely," Kimmel added.

Overnight temperatures in Central Texas could sink to the low teens or even single-digits, and that the region faces a long freeze.

"One important thing to realize is that most of our local area did not reach above freezing (Saturday)," Kimmel said. "It is not likely that, at least parts of the IH35 corridor, that we'll see above-freezing temperatures again until the middle and latter part of next week.

Kimmel urges the public to expect lengthy power outages and to keep mobile devices fully charged in case electricity is cut off.

Protect the four P's: Make sure people and pets are sheltered; delicate plants are covered and exposed pipes are wrapped.

RUN ON SUPPLIES:H-E-B to close early due to weather, while Twitter reports long lines, empty shelves

STATESMAN DELIVERIES DELAYED: Icy roads are hampering delivery

County travel advisories in place

The Williamson County Office of Emergency Management issued a travel warning around midday for the west and northwest parts of the county because of icy road conditions. 

"Temperatures remain at or below freezing with additional icy precipitation expected throughout the day," the alert read. "Residents are urged to stay home due to hazardous road conditions, particularly on elevated roadways and bridges."

For those who must be on the roads, county officials urge driving with extreme caution which means driving slowly and leaving lots of space between your car and others. 

Bastrop County issued a similar advisory earlier this morning. 

“There have already been 16 crashes this morning,” the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management said on Facebook just before 8 a.m. “If you can stay off the roads, please stay off the roads. It is not worth risking your life or anyone else’s and putting first responders at risk.”

In Travis County, rescuers responded to a rollover collision in the 10000 block of Southwest Parkway just east of Texas 71 around 11:10 a.m.

Lake Travis Fire Rescue crews found an adult pinned in the wreckage. A STAR Flight helicopter was requested to the scene but the call was canceled because of the weather.

After more than 30 minutes of effort, rescuers pulled the person from the wreckage. Austin-Travis County medics took them to St. David's South Austin Medical Center.

COVID cancellation:2,300 COVID-19 vaccine appointments in Austin canceled because of winter weather danger

Multiple collisions reported

Austin Fire crews, Austin police and Austin-Travis County EMS medics were responding to multiple vehicle collisions across the city Saturday morning, fire officials said.

As patchy drizzle continues to plague a region already gripped by subfreezing temperatures, overpasses and heavily used surface roads have begun to ice over. Public safety officials are urging the community to stay home, or if you must drive, to slow down.

Austin Fire officials said a stretch of North MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) from Lady Bird Lake north to Research Boulevard (U.S. 183) has been the scene of many crashes.

"Several public safety vehicles have now been struck at these collisions. Please slow down and move over," Austin Fire said via Twitter.

In Hays County, San Marcos police closed bridges and roadways after ice formed on some non-elevated sections of Interstate 35 early Saturday.

Bridges on Wonder World Drive west of I-35 were briefly closed but reopened once more deicer was applied.

San Marcos police as of 8 a.m. Saturday had responded to more than a dozen ice-related crashes on I-35 in both directions. No one was seriously injured.

The Texas Department of Transportation, which is managing ice mitigation and closures for most of the area's highways, has about 500 crew members and contractors working around the clock to respond to icy conditions, the agency told the American-Statesman on Friday.

Here are seven things to remember about icy driving:

  • Don't drive on icy roads. Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Brad Wheelis said people should stay off the roads if they can. "Treat every road as though it has ice on it. That's the best piece of advice I can give," he said.
  • But if you have to be on an icy road, then drive slowly and cautiously. You would go slow if you were walking on ice, right? Then make sure you go as slow as necessary to maintain control of the car. As a guide, try driving at half the posted speed limit or lower to be safe.
  • Don't tailgate. Leave enough room between your car and the car ahead to allow you to stop when the tires can't get traction. Even on dry pavement, you need more stopping distance the faster you go. Ice reduces friction on your tires, which means you will need even more stopping distance. Try to remain as many as 20 car lengths behind the car ahead.
  • Pump the brake gently. Don't stomp on the brake — that will lock the wheels and allow the car to skid.
  • Don't panic if you skid. You've probably heard the adage that advises you to turn in the direction of the skid, but you won't remember that if you panic. Don't forget: Turn in the direction the car is skidding.
  • Watch your acceleration. Avoid accelerating on bridges, icy patches or curves. Try to coast or glide over bridges and icy areas. Maintain a steady speed on curves, don't accelerate. Get some momentum before you start up a hill, and avoid accelerating on the way up because it can cause your wheels to spin.
  • Be prepared. Keep plenty of gas in the tank, keep your cell phone charged, keep a bottle of water and carry an extra blanket in the vehicle in case you become stranded. 

Saturday weather forecast for Austin

A winter storm warning is in effect until noon Monday for the Austin metro area, including Travis, Hays, Williamson, Bastrop and Caldwell counties, the National Weather Service says.

Forecasters expect light accumulations of ice of up to a quarter-inch on exposed frozen surfaces, including trees, power lines and roads, especially overpasses and bridges. Freezing drizzle is already falling and sleet is possible later in the day and at night.

"A more robust (winter storm) system will arrive Sunday afternoon and Sunday night and bring total snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches, with isolated amounts up to 6 inches" in the Austin metro area and parts of the Hill Country west of Austin, according to a bulletin from the weather service Saturday morning.

Forecasters also warn that road travel will be dangerous in many areas late Sunday into Monday because of blowing snow that could reduce visibility and obscure ice on roads.

Power outages could remain a persistent problem in Central Texas because ice still hasn't melted after rounds of freezing rain Thursday and Friday, forecasters say.

"Bitterly cold air will combine with gusty winds to produce wind wind chill values of minus-15 to 5 degrees Monday morning," the weather service said Saturday. "These values can lead to hypothermia for anyone stranded within the icy roads expected."

Forecasters and public safety officials are urging drivers to stay home. But if you must travel, they recommend keeping an extra flashlight, food, and water in your vehicle in case you become stranded.

But ...why?? Ice storms are rare in Austin but we've seen them before

Austin's temperatures on Saturday are expected to stay below freezing, with a high of 31. Adding bite to the extreme cold will be north winds of 10 to 15 mph with gusts as strong as 20 mph. Watch for scattered patches of drizzle.

At night, more freezing rain and possibly sleet are in the forecast for Austin. Temperatures could sink into the upper 20s as gusty north winds persist.

The weather service's extended forecast calls for more subfreezing temperatures and a snowy Valentine's Day before a return to the melting point at the end of next week:

Valentine's Day: A 50% chance of freezing rain and sleet with a high near 29. North-northeast winds of 10 to 15 mph with gusts as high as 20 mph. At night, a 90% chance of freezing rain and sleet then a mix of snow and sleet. Temperatures will drop to as low as 12 with wind chill values as low as minus-2. North winds of 15 to 20 mph could have gusts as high as 25 mph.

Monday: A 90% chance of snow possibly mixed with sleet, with a high near 23. North-northwest winds of 10 to 20 mph with gusts as high as 25 mph. Partly cloudy at night with a low around 6.

Tuesday: Mostly sunny with a high near 29. At night, a 50% chance of freezing rain and sleet with a low around 21.

Wednesday: A 60% chance of snow, freezing rain, and sleet with a high near 36. North winds of 5 to 10 mph with gusts as high as 20 mph. At night, a 40% chance of snow and freezing rain with a low around 22.

Thursday: A 30% chance of snow and freezing rain, otherwise mostly sunny with a high near 37. Mostly clear at night with a low around 21.

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