In North Central Texas in the weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving, the leaves in the neighborhood trees were still green and no hint of a storm was in evidence. Mild days and comfortable nights were a great respite after another brutally hot and oppressive summer. Fall was on its way and Texans were welcoming the pleasant conditions. Much of the country had no inkling Winter Storm Cleon was coming to choke much of the US.
Old Man Winter woke up and he came forth with a vengeance. The first storm that choked much of the country started out west, where it knocked down giant trees in San Francisco, CA. It stomped its way across the southwest, causing flooding in Phoenix, AZ. A few days later it blew into the midwest and North Central Texas, leaving a blanket of cold winds and icy rains that quickly tore every leaf from their branches and left icicles hanging in its place.
As is the case with Texas, after a few days, the weather went back to being comfortable. The temperatures in the first week of December were no higher than mid-70s, and no lower than mid-50s. This week, Real Winter came bearing back down upon the Lone Star state, and most of the country.
Ever since Sunday, when the Dallas Cowboys won a pivotal game against the Oakland Raiders, local and national meteorologists warned viewers that the chill was coming. Thursday night the temperatures began to fall. By Friday morning, the sleet had hit the streets and stuck.
Under that sleet was a solid sheet of ice anywhere from 1/2 to 3 inches thick, and the sleet was still coming down. The storm stretched from Mexico (yes old Mexico) to Canada and dropped snow, ice and tree-snapping cold across the North American Continent. As the sun began to rise, commuters found their cars cased in ice like bugs on a board. In some cases, carports gave way under the weight of nature and collapsed. Power lines, porches and street signs were hung with icicles.
Newscasters implored citizens to remain home if they absolutely did not have to be out and about. Many took their advice, and school closings helped keep the roads relatively clear on Friday. Morning rush hour was nothing of the sort as everything from tiny sub-subcompacts to big rigs slid, slipped and crept along side streets and highways. Bridges in effected Texas cities were closed overnight and remained so for much of the day.
Those that did brave the roads found Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT) had been busy with sand/salt trucks on the major roads. Side streets and neighborhood through-ways were not so lucky, but if one could manage to hit a main drag and pick up some of that sand –and one was very careful and very patient- it was possible to get from Point A to Point B and back again with minimal fuss and maximum safety.
Unfortunately, not everyone came out of the day with a sigh of relief. In downtown Dallas, the cold caused an underground transformer to blow early this morning which lead to a fire near Dallas’s Joule Hotel. The hotel escaped with little to no damage, but citizens and businesses in a five block area were without power for several hours.
Hundreds of thousands are without power across 28 states. Vehicles slid into oncoming traffic , through guard rails, off bridges and into ditches, injuring and terrifying hundreds. In Santa Clara County in California, four people were confirmed dead from hypothermia overnight. Three of the unfortunate homeless people were found in San Jose, and the fourth was in Saratoga, according to Sergeant Kurtis Stenderup of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.
Counties and entire sates in the affected area have declared a state of emergency. Thousands of travelers were stranded as flights were cancelled, and transit lines were limited or not functioning. Temperatures barely crept into the upper 20s in North Central Texas, and with the wind chill, forecasters are predicting temperatures from the upper teens to the single digits come Saturday morning.
Conditions are not expected to improve until sometime Monday when the temperature will creep above freezing for a few precious hours, only to plunge back to frigid overnight. It is safe to say that winter has put in a grand appearance and plans to stick around for a while.
Cleon, or Icemageddon as many are calling this massive storm, is supposed to move further east Friday night and wreak havoc on the eastern United States on Saturday and Sunday. This is the third named winter storm of the 2013-2014 season, and it is living up to the nickname those bearing the brunt of its fury have given it.
Meteorologists are predicting Winter Storm Dion on the heels of Cleon to parts of the Southern Plains to the Ohio Valley. The Middle Atlantic and Northeast will also be hit over the weekend and Dion is expected to drop more ice and snow on the the US. After Cleon choked off travel and activities across the country, Dion will be light in comparison and will linger for far less time. Between them, the entire country is under a cloak of ice and snow that heralds winter has arrived.
By Brandi Tasby