Ice storm strikes

By Brandon Evans | Published Saturday, December 7, 2013

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Everybody and their dog was at Wal-Mart Thursday.

SNOW DAY – Esther Wissmann gives her daughter, Ella Wissman, 9, a push as she attempts to sled down a street in Decatur. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

In anticipation of the winter storm crowds stormed stores like the second coming of Black Friday.

With the high risk of ice-covered roads, potential power outages and busted water pipes, customers stocked up on staples like bottled water and milk.

“We try to keep our pantry full of water in case our well freezes,” said Jackie Wiltcher.

Wiltcher lives with her husband at a farm in Cottondale. On Thursday morning she filled her buggy with gallon jugs of bottled water. Only a few remained on the bare shelves by noon.

“We aren’t in panic mode,” she said. “We’re just using some good common sense. We also fill our bath tub full of water in case our well freezes. You can still flush toilets in the house with the tub water.”

She also bought some food easy to cook on the grill in case the power goes out at their home.

“I got some hot dogs that we can always grill if everything else fails,” Wiltcher said.

Hard at Work

HARD AT WORK – A Texas Department of Transportation crew clears U.S. 380 between Decatur and Bridgeport Friday morning. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Other families were buying ingredients for meals that warm up a body when it’s in the teens outside.

“We’re stocking up on warm meals like pot roast and potato soup,” said Angie Moore, of Decatur. “We’re not worried about the power going out. We have a fireplace.”

Moore pushed her buggy out into the biting, gray cold. Her 4-year-old son Noah clung to the end of it, and inside shivered a tiny, brown Chihuahua named Angel.

“She just showed up on our door three days ago,” she said. “Now she won’t leave Noah’s side.”

Storm Preparation 1

STORM PREPARATION – Tyler Thomas of Greenwood adds windshield wiper fluid to his truck before heading to work Friday at Cabela’s. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

By early Thursday evening the crowded parking lot was almost bare. The Decatur Square resembled a ghost town as the ice pellets accumulated on the frozen streets.

“Things started to go downhill fast in Decatur,” said storm chaser Jason McLaughlin. “The sleet started coming down hard and covered everything in ice in a couple of hours.”

McLaughlin said the freezing temperatures won’t let up until early next week. And the precipitation probably won’t stop until sometime today. There is a slight chance of snow, and the high temperature is only expected to be 20 degrees. The high Sunday is forecast to be around 32 degrees.

As sleet accumulated on roadways, a few accidents occurred around the county, but fortunately none of them caused serious injuries as of early Friday afternoon. Most drivers stayed off the roads, while schools, government offices and some businesses closed due to the weather. The streets remained mostly barren. Up to 2 inches of sleet covered parts of the county by Friday, resembling shallow piles of snow. But the worst-case scenarios had been avoided. The power outages turned out to be almost nil by Friday afternoon. The colder weather in Wise County actually saved the area.

Storm Preparation 2

STORM PREPARATION – Jackie Wiltcher of Cottondale stocks up on bottled water and other supplies Thursday before the storm. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Oncor Area Manager Sabrina Younger reported only a handful of power outages in the entire county as of Friday afternoon. She said the colder temperatures here in Wise County actually helped because we received more sleet than freezing rain. Freezing rain is what causes most of the problems with ice buildup on power lines and trees.

“Areas from Plano and McKinney to Sherman to northern Tarrant County and Denton County are seeing less sleet and more freezing rain and may see the worst power issues,” McLaughlin said. “The temperatures here are well below freezing, so we got the sleet instead of freezing rain.”

It’s still a full, two weeks before the first official day of winter, but if long-term forecasts are correct, Wise County residents need to prepare for several more ice storms this year and into next.

“I have said for months we are in for much colder and icier times this winter with some warm stretches in between,” McLaughlin said. “I believe this is just a sign of a long winter to come.”


Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard opened a warming shelter at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Decatur Civic Center, 2010 W. U.S. 380. Beard said it is primarily for motorists left stranded because of the ice storm, but it’s also available for anyone in need of shelter. It’s supplying items to meet basic needs.

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