Winter Storm Brings Black Ice And Snow

Mathers RanchPhoto by Alan Hale

A brutal winter storm brought a little nip of Christmas and a lot of woe to travelers in this part of the Texas Panhandle as the holidays approached two weeks ago. Temperatures plummeted from a relatively balmy mid-60 degrees at the first of the week to below freezing by the morning of Friday, December 20. Gusty winds shifted to the north and picked up speed, driving wind chill values to between 10 and 20 degrees. Before midnight, rain had begun to fall, and then freeze, changing to a dangerous mix of freezing rain and sleet, covered by a layer of snow during the early morning hours of Saturday.

Three inches of snow were recorded in the Canadian area over the next two days, but some parts of the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles got more—with 4.5 inches reported in Gray and Hutchinson counties, 7 inches in Lipscomb County and across the state line in Beaver County, 8-9 inches blanketing Hansford and Ochiltree counties and 11.5 inches burying the Dumas area.

The scanners crackled constantly with calls for assistance from law enforcement, EMS, area fire departments and wrecker services. According to a Texas Department of Public Safety summary, the increasingly frantic pace of emergency responses accounted for 119 accidents in the Amarillo district over about 36 hours from midnight Friday until late Sunday afternoon. Many of those included multiple vehicles within an accident and additional wrecks following the initial accident.

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