By Public Radio Staff
A rare West Texas winter storm has led to dangerous and icy road conditions, leading to dozens of accidents and highway closures in the Big Bend region and the Permian Basin.
With the storm’s heaviest snowfalls yet to come, there are already reports of stranded drivers and highways backed up for miles with stand-still traffic.
Officials throughout the region are urging drivers to avoid traveling.
The storm began to move through the area Wednesday morning and is expected to last well into Thursday, according to the National Weather Service’s Midland office.
“Since it is going to be coming down so quickly, we do expect it to accumulate on the roads and cause accidents,” said meteorologist Samantha Zuber. “It’s going to be very difficult Thursday morning to get around [in the Big Bend region and Fort Stockton area.]”
By Wednesday night, the Texas Department of Transportation closed Highway 67 from Marfa to Presidio because of “dangerous snow and ice conditions.”
“Everybody’s busy tonight,” said Marfa Police Chief Estevan Marquez, whose department responded to an accident caused by the growing snowfall on the road.
The interstate closure stranded dozens of families—some of which were heading home to Presidio, others who were hoping to get to Mexico to visit family.
“It’s bad out there, we can barely see,” said Juan Astorga, who lives in Odessa and was heading to Mexico to spend New Year’s Eve with his children. “We made a mistake coming this way, but we’re staying here. See if it gets better tomorrow.”
After coordinating with the city and county, officials with Marfa Independent School District opened up two of its gyms to house the many stranded families who were left without shelter.
Since this afternoon there have been reports of low visibility and icy roads throughout West Texas counties. Local and regional officials are urging people to stay at home and off the roads if possible.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning that includes the Midland-Odessa area and the Big Bend.
According to the current forecast, four to seven inches of snow may fall in the Midland-Odessa area. The Davis Mountains and the Fort Stockton are could see as much 12 to over 18 inches of snow accumulation by Thursday night.