Rain, freezing rain, and snow hammered Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma over the Thanksgiving weekend, making travel hazardous and claiming the lives of at least fourteen people from accidents and flood waters that swept people from their cars.
According to WFAA-TV in North Texas, eight people lost their lives in floods and the others died from accidents related to ice storms that swept across Kansas and Oklahoma.
Weather forecasters issued flash flood watches and warnings from northern Texas up to St. Louis, and reported up to four inches of rain in several places as the storm moved across the northeast. Freezing rain and also strong winds have been blamed for several of the fatal accidents that happened in Kansas and Texas this last weekend.
“There’s a pretty substantial shield of rain extending from parts of Texas across a lot of Oklahoma and into the mid-Mississippi Valley,” said John Hart, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Around 100 car crashes were reported in the Texas panhandle and South Plains through the weekend with ice accumulation up to an inch thick in places.
“It’s a very dangerous situation when you get temperatures like that near freezing. The ice may look like it’s just water,” said Alex Sosnowski, Accuweather senior meteorologist. “The fact is when ice is near freezing, it’s much slipperier than when it goes down near 20 degrees.”
The weather has made travel very difficult on this Thanksgiving weekend, AccuWeather reported.
Weather forecasters do have some good news, though. They say temperatures are expected to get above freezing on Sunday, allowing the roads to thaw out and make traveling safer for the thousands that need to come home.
Rain is expected on Sunday from Texas to the Mid-Atlantic states, while freezing drizzle is in the forecast for southern Nebraska and Central Kansas. Snow is going to fall from Colorado to the western Dakotas.
Texas rainfall totals passed a previous 1991 record of 53.54 inches. This year the rainfall totals reached well over 4.5 feet, or 55.91 inches, for the year.
In Garland, Texas, firefighters found the body of a 29-year-old man inside a Hyundai Elantra that was submerged after the car was swept off of a bridge. The body of a 33-year-old woman was also found downstream away from her vehicle just west of Fort Worth after the vehicle was washed off the road in waters that were 10 to 12 feet over the banks of Rock Creek, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tim Jones said.
A sherriff’s spokeswoman said they are still investigating how the wet roads affected a collision on Friday afternoon on a highway in South Dallas in which two children were killed. The children were ejected from a car that was carrying five people after an SUV struck the vehicle driving at a speed of 100 mph. The driver of the SUV is being held on a vehicular manslaughter charge.
Weather experts were predicting a wet year across the country because of a strong El Niño, which is a warming of tropical Pacific Ocean water that affects the weather around the world.
“It’s been a pretty wet year across Texas with the El Niño pattern. There’s been lots of storms coming through in the Pacific and then they move across Mexico and into Texas,” said one meteorologist.
Extra troopers have been called out to patrol the wet and icy highways and they are trained to drive slower in these conditions.
“I probably drive slower than all of them,” Highway patrolman Barkley said. “But we see people passing us all the time. It’s so frustrating.”
Road crews have been monitoring the roads and applying salt and sand around the midwest since Thursday.
“We definitely understand that people travel to see family and friends (for Thanksgiving), and have to travel back home. If people have to travel in these affected areas, definitely plan plenty of extra travel time and check conditions before they head out,” Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokesman Cody Boyd said Friday evening.
He said motorists need to take “especially extra, extra caution when driving after dark in conditions like this.”
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