DALLAS/FORT WORTH — Heavy rain and icy conditions are likely to stick around through most of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in parts of the central U.S. due to a slow-moving, complex weather system that’s being blamed for at least 14 deaths.
“There’s a pretty substantial shield of rain extending from parts of Texas across a lot of Oklahoma and into the mid-Mississippi Valley,” said John Hart, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Authorities in Kansas are blaming six traffic deaths on the icy conditions.
Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton says icy roads caused a Friday afternoon crash about 10 miles southeast of Newton that killed two people. The Kansas Turnpike Authority says two other people were killed hours later when a tractor trailer jackknifed on an icy stretch of Interstate 35 near Andover and struck an SUV.
Authorities previously blamed two Kansas traffic deaths Thursday on the wintry storm system. Meanwhile, officials in Texas have eight deaths on the storms since Thursday, and a person who was swept away by flash flooding remains missing.
The National Weather Service issued ice storm warnings in the Texas Panhandle and central Oklahoma that will remain in effect through Saturday night, with up to a quarter or half-inch of ice expected to accumulate. Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokesman Cody Boyd said road crews had been applying salt and sand since Thursday night, noting that roads there were slick and hazardous.
“It is really a weather event with a lot of different aspects,” Boyd said Friday. “We definitely understand that people travel to see family and friends (for Thanksgiving), and have to travel back home. If people have to travel … plan plenty of extra travel time and check conditions before they head out.”
Freezing rain and strong winds have been blamed for several fatal accidents in Kansas and Texas since Thursday. The eastern half of Kansas is under a winter weather advisory until Saturday morning, with freezing rain and sleet expected.
No highways in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains were closed despite the icy conditions, but about 100 crashes had been reported as of Friday evening, said Trooper Cindy Barkley of the Texas Department of Public Safety office in Amarillo.
She advised motorists to slow down, noting that state troopers “see people passing us all the time. It’s so frustrating.”
Forecasters have issued flash-flood watches and warnings from northeast Texas, eastern Oklahoma, southern Missouri and most of Arkansas.
At least one person remained missing early Saturday, as conditions were too dangerous to search for a 70-year-old woman whose car was swept off a bridge in Fort Worth.
A local sheriff’s deputy was swept away trying to rescue her, but a dive team later found and rescued the deputy, who was clinging to a tree.
Already, a total 55.23 inches of rain has been recorded at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport this year, topping the annual rainfall record of 53.54 inches set in 1991.
Much of central and western Arkansas could see 5 to 7 inches of rain through Sunday, the weather service said, while the Ouachita Mountain region could get more than 8 inches.