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Snow storm blankets Odessa, Permian Basin

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Posted: Monday, December 5, 2011 12:00 am

Odessans who enjoyed the snow Monday can expect to see more cold temperatures Tuesday, icy driving conditions and a slight possibility of more snow.

Michelle Schuldt, a meteorologist intern with the National Weather Service in Midland said Odessa received between 2.5 and 3 inches of snow. Temperatures Tuesday are forecasted to be similar to Monday, staying in the low 30s with overnight lows dipping into the 20s.

Chances of more precipitation, however, are not very high forecasters say.

Melting snow could turn into ice overnight making roadways very treacherous, officials say.

Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Gene Powell said crews will be out again overnight preparing bridges and roadways for the potential of water that refreezes with temperatures dropping.

Powell said they can’t cover every part of every road, so people still need to use caution when driving, especially because it’s sometimes hard to tell where the ice is on the road.

“The reality is it’s all a problem area, because if people drive like they think it’s June, they’re in trouble,” he said.

Sgt. Hunter Lewis with the Department of Public Safety said only a few accidents were reported Monday morning and none of them were major.

The roads were not as bad as they had been in previous years, he said, including in 2009 when the troopers responded to 37 rollover calls in an hour-and-a-half.

“My personal opinion, the roadways aren’t as bad as they could be,” he said. “It’s probably going to be worse after it freezes tonight.”

On average, area snowfall was about 3 inches. Places such as Midland International received 2.5 inches, the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis got 3 inches, Snyder saw between 2 to 3 inches and Andrews had anywhere between half an inch to 3 inches of snow.

Monday’s snowfall was enough to cancel school for the Ector County Independent School District, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, and delay city offices open until 10 a.m. The Ector County offices and the business office of the Ector County Sheriff’s Department were also closed due to the weather.

However, transportation services remained on schedule.

Midland International Airport Director Marv Esterly said there were no major delays and no cancellations at the airport. Esterly said workers were out around midnight to plow snow off the runways.

“We’re keeping on top of it,” Esterly said. “Everything is running pretty much on time with some small minor delays but nothing major.”

Around the state, general departure and arrival delays were only 15 minutes or less, with only Houston Intercontinental Airport experiencing 16-minute to 45-minute delays, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

EZ Rider bus services were also fully running and on regular schedule, EZ Rider representative Beth Donnell said.

“There might be times we’re running a little behind a few minutes here or there, but right now our drivers are doing OK,” Donnell said. “If anything changes or gets worse, we’ll definitely slow down.”

The snow storm caused power outages in Odessa, Midland and Big Spring, said officials at Oncor, the electric service delivery provider for the area.

Power outages in Odessa started a little after midnight, according to Oncor Area Manager Sue Mercer. The peak in the outages occurred around 3 a.m. when 700 customers in Odessa were without power. Power was restored to most Odessa customers by Monday afternoon.

Most of the outages occurred due to falling tree limbs, Mercer reported.

“It was due to the trees limbs dropping and getting into the lines,” Mercer said.

 “We are having problems with limbs getting heavy from the weight of the wet snow,” Mercer explained. “We have to get tree trimmers out to remove the limbs and then we will restore the lines.”

Power was restored by 6:30 a.m. Monday for more than 2,000 electric customers in Big Spring, Mercer said.

Many of Odessa’s homeless population avoided the inclement weather by seeking shelter at organizations like the Salvation Army and the Door of Hope Mission.

Thirty-one people sought comfort at the Salvation Army during the first snowfall on Sunday evening, and many more were expected at the shelter overnight due to more chances of snow in the forecast Tuesday.

The shelter has 48 beds total and can house up to 68 people with cots. Another 100 people could be housed in the Salvation Army’s gymnasium.

“We never know from one night to the other how many people we’ll actually have,” Salvation Army receptionist Kaye Hanks said. “We’ll make sure they’re taken care of.”

Temperatures are expected to warm back up slightly by the end of the week with Wednesday’s high to be around 35 degrees; Thursday’s high should be around 53 degrees, and Friday temperatures are expected to reach 41 degrees.

Reporters Nathaniel Miller, Lyxan Toledanes and Jon Vanderlaan contributed to this report.

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