Kilgore first responders and select city workers were busy Tuesday as vehicles slid through town on the ice rinks that were roadways a day earlier.
“It’s dangerous out here,” Kilgore Police Sgt. Vance Callahan told his colleagues about 12:35 Tuesday afternoon. “If we’ve got any sand trucks in the area, send them this way.”
A sunny Monday gave way to a rainy night. Then, as Monday turned to Tuesday, temperatures dropped well below freezing, turning any liquid into ice. The rain transitioned into freezing rain, then sleet and finally snow.
A report a few miles south of Kilgore showed 1.1 inches of snow, while Longview had a reported 1.5 inches of snow, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Aaron Stevens.
“This is a very typical winter event for this area,” he said.
The NWS Shreveport office issued winter storm watches and warnings and wind chill warnings in the days leading up to the event, warning East Texans of the dangerous temperatures, wind chill factors and road conditions associated with the storm.
A Kilgore police officer monitoring traffic flow at North Street and Hwy. 259 Tuesday morning said, “This isn’t as bad as it’s been before.”
The biggest difference with the first winter storm of 2018, Stevens said, is the speed at which the freezing rain turned to snow. Snow is formed when cold air that is typically very shallow extends up to the clouds instead of beginning closer to the ground.
The snow and ice created difficult travel conditions as KPD responded to wrecks throughout town. Even brine applied by Texas Department of Transportation vehicles could not keep vehicles from slipping and sliding on roads. City workers helped apply sand in high-traffic areas and at intersections to help drivers.
Through social media, though, KPD continued to plead with Kilgore residents to stay off the roads, posting a little before noon Tuesday, “We are really serious now. We can’t keep up with the accidents. You don’t need to be on the roads. They are worse now than an hour ago. For (humanity’s) sake, please stay at home!”
With temperatures remaining below freezing throughout Tuesday, slush created by traffic on roadways turned to ice, creating dangerous conditions.
Most notably, the Hwy. 259 Bypass, an elevated roadway, and Dudley Road were closed to traffic after multiple incidents involving 18-wheelers and smaller vehicles were reported on the icy roadways. Both roads were reopened to traffic just before 1 p.m. after city crews were able to apply sand to improve traction.
Even with the reopening of Dudley Road, KPD warned drivers to be extremely cautious if they get out on the roads because the slush is refreezing and all liquid on the roads will refreeze overnight as temperatures plummet into the teens.
Students – and many adults – enjoyed a snow day at home, though, as the winter weather prompted the closure of all area schools and many businesses throughout Kilgore.
Overton ISD was one of the first to announce the schools would be closed Tuesday due to the weather moving into the area. The notice also indicated the school would have a delayed start at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Kilgore ISD was next to cancel classes Tuesday and announced Tuesday afternoon it would remain closed through Wednesday with hopes to welcome students back Thursday. Kilgore College, Sabine ISD, Leverett’s Chapel ISD and West Rusk CCISD followed suit and announced campuses would be closed all day Tuesday also.
For Kilgore College students, Tuesday would have been students’ first day of school for the spring semester. Instead, they got a snow day.
Kilgore City Hall and multiple restaurants and businesses also closed due to the hazardous road conditions.
Stevens expects conditions to improve a little by Wednesday afternoon as temperatures get above freezing and sunshine returns to help melt snow and ice. Temperatures will continue warming throughout the week, but it is possible Kilgore and the surrounding area could see more ice this weekend as showers return to the area and temperatures again drop below freezing.