With winter weather already bearing down on the Permian Basin early Wednesday afternoon, many local institutions announced early that they would close today.

Ector County Independent School District is closed and all activities are cancelled today. The University of Texas Permian Basin will work remote and all classes will be virtual both today and Friday. ECISD will make a decision on Friday later today. Odessa College is also closed today. Also, IDEA public schools is closed today.

Ector County and City of Odessa offices will also be closed today.

Salvation Army of Odessa’s Major Luis Melendez inspects beds in the men’s dormitory of the Mabee Red Shield Lodge as the shelter prepares to open as an emergency inclement temporary shelter Wednesday afternoon in Odessa. The shelter will begin intaking guests following the Salvation Army’s evening meal service at 5 p.m. and will remain open as an emergency cold weather shelter until temperatures have returned to above freezing. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American)

Freezing temperatures are expected to turn precipitation into snow by the early hours today in the Odessa-Midland area. Temperatures began to fall Wednesday afternoon across much of the Permian Basin and Southeastern New Mexico. Meteorologist David Hefnig at the National Weather Service in Midland said temps aren’t going to get any warmer. “We’re going to see them drop throughout the day. There are some scattered showers out there right now, some down around Big Lake and towards Snyder. Until temperatures get down to freezing, there will be some rain showers in cycles like that going on.”

While it was too warm for freezing rain to be sticking on roads, Hefnig said it could stick on exposed surfaces such as signs. As of Wednesday morning, Hefnig said the biggest question was when the precipitation goes from rain to freezing rain to snow with the likely answer being late Wednesday afternoon and into the night. “We’re pretty confident that once midnight rolls around, everything will be changed over to snow and probably even before that,” Hefnig said. “The question is really on the timing and a few hours can make a huge difference between whether or not we see a tenth or two-tenths of an inch of freezing rain versus a half an inch of snow or five hundredths of an inch of freezing rain versus three inches of snow. It doesn’t take much change on the timing of that to drill those numbers off. Right now, I think we’re going to see wintry precipitation starting sometime around 3 p.m. (Wednesday) before sunset. It’ll be about three-six hours before changing over to all snow.”

Once that’s changed over to snow, Hefnig says it’ll stay snow at that point. “We won’t have to worry about any of the other mixed stuff,” Hefnig said. “The question becomes how much is going to fall. Most of the precipitation that we’re expecting will be in the overnight hours and then, once sunrise comes up tomorrow, we’re going to start seeing much more scattered.”

The Salvation Army’s Mabee Red Shield Lodge will be opening as an emergency inclement temporary shelter starting after Wednesday evening’s meal service, which begins at 5 p.m., and will remain open until the weather returns to above freezing. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American)

A winter weather advisory is in effect for the Permian Basin where snowfall of one to three inches are expected. The freezing temperatures will last for likely three days, Hefnig said.

Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis said the West Annex located at 2261 W. Sycamore Drive can be opened for people who are without heat. Griffis said the West Annex can seat about 40 to 50 people. Contact number is 432-335-3050.

“If somebody is cold, I want them to call us,” Griffis said. “We will put them in there. We have lots of tables and chairs. We have a coffee pot and a little kitchen. I don’t want anybody getting cold.”

The Salvation Army will open its doors and serve as an “emergency inclement weather temporary shelter” today. The shelter can’t exceed 75% capacity or roughly 40 people due to COVID-19. People will be required to wear masks.

Gene Powell, the spokesman for TxDOT’s Odessa District, said due to projected rainfall before expected snowfall that some of the brine that is used to pre-treat roads will wash off the road and ice will form.

“The important thing to note is that it will rain before it snows, which means some of it will wash off and that means that we can’t prevent ice from forming,” Powell said. “There will be ice. Don’t think that it’s going to be clear roads everywhere. There are going to be ice patches.”