Weather

Arctic blast continues: More than 100 ice-related crashes since midnight, Houston police say

Freezing temperatures will result in frigid wind chills into Wednesday morning.

Freezing rain
Pexels

Record-setting temperatures were recorded across southeast Texas on Tuesday morning with temperatures dipping into the teens across the Houston area, according to National Weather Service Houston.

The temperature dropped to 18 degrees at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport, the official weather location for the city. That’s a new record low for January 16, officials said.

It felt even colder, with wind chills ranging from two degrees in College Station to 12 degrees in Galveston on Tuesday morning.

Highs on Tuesday are expected to go above freezing for several hours on Tuesday afternoon, as temperatures are forecast to rise into the mid-30s.

RELATED: Houston plumbers say these simple tips will keep your pipes from freezing

One final hard freeze is expected across Houston overnight into Wednesday morning, with temperatures once again expected to drop into the low 20s and high teens.

NWS suggests people dress in layers, wear hats, mittens or gloves, limit outdoor time and know the signs of illness.

Why did major highways ice over despite treatment?

Despite many of Houston's roads being pre-treated with a salt-brine mixture to prevent freezing, drivers encountered icy conditions while driving Monday night.

Kristina Hadley, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Transportation, says the agency began treating local roads over the weekend and that they'll continue to do so while temperatures continue to linger below freezing.

"Of course, we can’t control how heavy the weather and the ice is going to stick in," Hadley said. "But our crews will continue to go out and treat those areas."

According to Hadley, the agency doesn't anticipate more road closures unless it precipitates – whether it be in the form of rain, snow or hail – which could cause more ice to form on the city's roadways.

"The temperatures will be dropping below freezing again and there could be a possibility of a refreeze so we want to make sure that we [treat] those areas before that happens," Hadley said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a stretch of US 290 in northwest Houston was still being affected by ice, according to TxDOT.

A walk in the cold

The freezing, icy conditions continue for Houston-area residents today, but for some, the sunny weather is enough to enjoy a walk outside. Carey Pickens is a Montrose-area resident who's lived in Houston since 2019. She says while she's more used to the cold, she knows the infrastructure here is not.

"I was here for the big freeze. We were without power for about four days," she said. "So, that was cold. That was really cold in the house."

Pickens drove to the airport last night to drop off visiting family heading back to the United Kingdom. She says she and her family were there for six hours.

"You only get freezing temperatures here like three days a year," Pickens said. "I was surprised when I drove my family to the airport last night, cause the car did slide sideways a little bit on the bridge and I was like, ‘Oh! Okay! go very cautious.'"

Pickens says in the UK, most roads are made with asphalt, or tarmac, in contrast to concrete roads here. Concrete roads tend to be more slippery than tarmac in rain or snow.

Icy radio tower
Houston Public Media
Ice can be seen on the Houston Public Media broadcast tower in southwest Houston on January 16, 2024.

Some power outages reported across Houston area Tuesday

About 1,800 CenterPoint customers in and around Harris County were experiencing power outages around 2 p.m. Tuesday, including about 700 outages in Houston and more than 300 in Galveston. That number was significantly down from the nearly 3,800 outages that had been reported earlier Tuesday morning.

Power to 44,750 customers across the area has been restored in the past 24 hours, according to CenterPoint.

As of Tuesday afternoon, grid operations were operating at normal conditions, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which asked Texans to conserve power Monday and Tuesday morning.

Harris County road conditions are improving, Hidalgo says

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said road conditions are improving, but residents are still encouraged to stay off the road.

“The sunshine is doing its work, and we have crews out working diligently on the roadways,” she said in a statement. “If you can, please avoid driving through tonight. Although we are expecting a very cold night tonight, any threats on the roadways should be gone by tomorrow morning.”

If the road looks wet, it is ice, she said.

Houston-area road conditions can be found on the Houston TranStar website.

Trash pickup moved to later in week

The Solid Waste Department will be two days behind on its trash pickup services and heavy tree waste.

Pickup was already delayed because of Monday's holiday and now the winter freeze has pushed it back even more. Residents whose trash pickup days are scheduled for Mondays, will be serviced first and the remaining days will follow through the weekend. The department’s facilities including offices, neighborhood depositories, and recycling centers will also re-open.

The department is also suspending its curbside recycling and yard waste collections for B-week residents for the remainder of the week. Normal services are expected to resume Monday, January 22.

  • Wednesday, January 17: Monday’s scheduled garbage routes will be serviced. The 3rd Monday and 3rd Tuesday Heavy Tree Waste collection services will resume. (3rd Monday's & 3rd Tuesday's recycling and yard waste services will be suspended.)
  • Thursday, January 18: Tuesday's scheduled garbage routes and 3rd Wednesday's Heavy Tree Waste routes will be serviced.
  • Friday, January 19: Thursday's scheduled garbage routes and 3rd Thursday's Heavy Tree Waste collection routes will be serviced.
  • Saturday, January 20: Friday's scheduled garbage routes and Friday's Heavy Tree Waste collection routes will be serviced.

Schools closed Tuesday, classes expected to resume Wednesday

Houston Independent School District and other Houston-area districts were closed on Tuesday because of frigid temperatures and potentially icy road conditions.

School districts closed Tuesday include Clear Creek, Spring Branch, Friendswood, Angleton, Conroe, Pearland and Cypress-Fairbanks ISDs.

Rice University, all University of Houston campuses and Texas Southern University were also closed, with most classes and operations moving to remote.

Some school districts and the University of Houston expect to resume normal business hours on Wednesday.

Cancellations, delays continue at Houston airports

IAH flight board
Mark Norris/Houston Public Media
Flight information boards show numerous cancellations and delays due to icy and cold conditions at Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday, January 15, 2024.

It was a second straight day of weather-related delays and canceled flights at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, 211 flights were canceled and 323 were delayed.

There were also 48 delays and 19 canceled flights so far at Hobby Airport.

Monday was a mess at Houston’s big airport, with a ground stop for flights of United Airlines planes wreaking havoc with arrivals and departures.

According to data from FlightAware, 542 flights were canceled on Monday at Intercontinental and 417 were delayed.

More than 100 ice-related crashes on Tuesday

METRO HOV/HOT Express lanes, which closed on Monday, will stay closed all day Tuesday.

The lanes affected include: I-45 North and South, I-69 / U.S. Hwy. 59 North and South, U.S. 290 West, and the I-10 Katy-CBD elevated two-way ramp between downtown Houston and Studemont Street.

Houston police said as of 8 a.m. Tuesday there had been 580 crashes since midnight in city limits. Of those, more than 100 were ice-related.

METRO service resumes

METRO suspended its local bus and METRORapid routes at 9 p.m. Monday due to deteriorating conditions throughout Houston.

Both services resumed Tuesday morning, but there was no park and ride services.

METRORail operated Tuesday, but at reduced frequencies.