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Forecasters warn of dangerous travel, bitterly cold temperatures as winter storm descends on West Texas

1-17
(National Weather Service)

The National Weather Service is expecting most of West Texas to see at least some accumulations of snow and/or ice through Thursday. Travel across the region could be dangerous through Saturday morning as ice lingers on the roadways.

By Travis Bubenik

Parts of the Permian Basin saw freezing rain Wednesday morning as a strong winter storm descended on West Texas, with forecasters already warning of dangerous travel conditions and bitterly cold temperatures through the rest of the week.

“Even though roads may just look wet, it could very well be black ice as the temperatures continue to fall,” the National Weather Service in Midland wrote on Twitter.“Leave plenty of time to reach your destination today and take it slow if you must drive.”

The weather conditions, part of a broader winter storm impacting much of the U.S. this week, is expected to bring at least an inch of snow and some amount of ice accumulation to much of West Texas through Thursday.

Forecasters said Wednesday’s rain will transition into freezing rain and snow as the storm pushes south overnight into Thursday.

According to the National Weather Service, the I-20 corridor in the Permian Basin could see two to four inches of snow, with three to five inches possible in the more mountainous parts of the region.

Parts of the Guadalupe Mountains could see as much as eight inches, forecasters said.

Forecasters are warning that travel would continue to be dangerous through the end of the week, as temperatures are not expected to climb above freezing for many areas until Saturday.

Wind chills could drop to as low as the single digits, or even into the negatives, early Thursday and Friday mornings, the National Weather Service said.

Officials with the Texas Department of Transportation said Tuesday the agency was pre-treating roads ahead of the storm, but that travel could still be dangerous across the state over the next few days.

"There's no one skilled enough to drive an automobile at highway speed in icy conditions, period,” TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams said. “The last thing we need is to use life on the roadways. We've got 313,000 miles of the roadway in Texas, please be safe, stay off the roadways."

Also ahead of the storm, Gov. Greg Abbott tried to assure residents that the state’s power grid is ready for the coldest weather of the winter. But he said there could still be scattered outages that are not related to the grid.

"There could be either ice on power lines that would cause a power line to go down, or it could be ice on trees that causes a tree to fall on power lines and cause the power line to go down,” Abbott said.

As the Texas Newsroom reported this week, the power grid is largely expected to weather the storm and to avoid a repeat of last February’s deadly blackouts.

Becky Fogel contributed reporting from the Texas Newsroom, a public media collaborative.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.