South Texas gets rare winter ice; I-94 being cleared after fatal - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

South Texas gets rare winter ice; I-94 being cleared after fatal Indiana crash

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Numerous accidents reported, 100 flights delayed in Houston
  • Part of I-94 still closed in Indiana after crash in whiteout killed three people, injured 22
  • Most schools and many roads in and around Houston were closed Friday
  • Propane shortages continue to pain consumers

By Michael Pearson and Nick Valencia

HOUSTON (CNN) -- Houston, you have a problem. It's called ice, and some of you may even be seeing something called snow.

It's OK; it's actually pretty normal in most parts of the country.

But we understand if you're freaking out a little bit, like this Twitter user, who jokingly posted: "Ice on my windshield. Anything I can do or should I just bust it out with a hammer?"

Winter weather is pretty rare in Houston, a place more accustomed to prepping for a hurricane than weird Northern rituals like tossing salt on the ground.

The city's had measurable snow only three times since 1968; the last time in 1994, according to CNN's weather unit.

Still, the city and its suburbs were under a winter storm warning Friday morning, with the National Weather Service warning of the chance of up to 2 inches of snow and nearly a tenth of an inch of ice.

Hazardous road travel, flight delays

Icy conditions were common across roadways in the nation's fourth-largest city, transportation officials reported Friday morning.

"We've seen accidents, especially on iced-over bridges and ramps," said Michael Walter, a spokesman for the city's emergency management agency. "Too many to count right now."

The worst, he said, was a tractor-trailer that broke through the center divider on Interstate 45.

Icy conditions are also causing delays at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, he said. About 100 flights have been delayed.

High winds associated with the storm also forced the U.S. Coast Guard to suspend shipping through the Houston Ship Channel. While the channel remained closed Friday morning, the Coast Guard hoped to have it reopened by afternoon, Lt. Ashley Bullard said.

About 50 ships pass through the channel each day, Bullard said.

School closings

Many school districts closed for what amounted to a snow day for hundreds of thousands of kids.

"Yay for long weekend," Twitter user lauraface13m posted Friday morning. "What? Oh yeah ... no! No snow has actually fallen. It's just cold and rainy. Close enough."

Snow did fall north of Houston. In Madison County, the National Weather Service said nearly an inch of snow was on the ground.

In Huntsville, about an inch of snow fell overnight, CNN affiliate KPRC reported.

In San Antonio, similar conditions were causing problems for commuters Friday morning. About a tenth of an inch of rain fell overnight, freezing on surfaces and making many roads slippery, CNN affiliate KSAT reported.

Officials urged residents to stay off the roads if possible, the station said.

The system appeared to be moving out of the Houston region Friday morning.

Indiana pileup

Winter weather caused more serious problems Thursday in Indiana, where three people died in a 46-vehicle accident in whiteout conditions on Interstate 94, state police Sgt. Ann Wojas said Friday. Twenty-two people were injured, two critically.

The accident -- which Wolma said involved 20 trucks and 26 private vehicles -- stretched for more than a mile, according to Lt. Jerry Williams, district commander for the Indiana State Police.

A fire official who responded to the crash told reporters "we're lucky there wasn't 210 people dead and three injured."

It took firefighters hours to rescue all of the victims, including two who were airlifted to nearby hospitals in critical condition.

Wojas identified the dead as Marilyn Wolma, 65 and her husband, Thomas Wolma, 67, both of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Gerry Dalrymple, 65, of Chicago.

The interstate's eastbound lanes remained closed early Friday, the Indiana Department of Transportation said.

Officials hoped to reopen the lanes Friday morning, but it will take much longer to fully understand what happened and why, Wojas said.

"This investigation will take several weeks, if not months, to complete," she said.

Officials have removed the last vehicle involved in the wreck, CNN affiliate WLS reported.

Propane shortages

Also, propane shortages across the country are causing prices to spike, pinching consumers looking to keep ahead of bitter cold winter weather in many places.

"We have double blankets on the beds, the couch, the kids' beds. I don't know what else to do," said Sandy DeHorn, who said prices for propane rose from $2.69 to $5 in one day.

"How can that happen?" she said.

More than 12 million U.S. households use propane to keep warm, according to an industry trade group. Supplies are short because of increased demand due to the cold weather and increased usage by corn farmers last fall, who used extra propane to dry a bumper crop of corn.

 

Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta, and Nick Valencia reported from Houston. CNN's George Howell and Marlena Baldacci and CNNMoney's Caleb Silver and Steve Hargreaves also contributed to this report.

 

The-CNN-Wire

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