Hard Freeze in Texas May Be Winter's Last Gasp in South, Forecasters Say

A hard freeze that has sent temperatures plunging as much as 40 degrees below normal in Texas may be the last big blast of winter for the southern U.S., forecasters said.

Temperatures in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are 15 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit today (minus 9 to minus 7.7 Celsius), said Matt Mosier, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth. The normal high for Dallas is 58 degrees.

Winds make the temperature feel closer to zero and below, he said.

“This event looks to be colder, at least for today, than last week,” Mosier said.

Temperatures across northern Texas last week fell below freezing for 103 hours. As much as 6 inches of snow fell on the Dallas area, while Houston was coated in ice and winter weather warnings were posted as far south as the Mexican border.

The cold blast sent residents to their thermostats and froze pipes at power plants, prompting the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s grid, to order rotating outages to help power generators cope with demand.

Wind chill warnings and advisories, along with hard-freeze warnings and winter-storm watches, cover most of Texas today from the Oklahoma line to Mexico, according to the weather service.

Flights Grounded

American Airlines and its American Eagle commuter unit canceled 387 flights, or about half their daily operations, at Dallas-Fort Worth International airport today because of ice and snow, Ed Martelle, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail. Southwest Airlines Co. grounded 40 flights from Dallas Love Field, according to Whitney Eichinger, a company spokeswoman.

After today, temperatures will start to rise in Dallas and Fort Worth, Mosier said. By the weekend, highs in the 60s are possible, he said.

The thaw in Texas is expected to spread across much of the rest of the U.S. through next week, forecasters said.

Natural gas futures were steady.

“The market is ignoring the current cold because it believes we will see warmer temperatures,” said Phil Flynn, vice president of research at PFGBest in Chicago. “There’s a sense that the market is going to continue to be well- supplied.”

The forecast warmth is “a well-deserved and long-overdue breather,” said Michael Schlacter, chief meteorologist at Weather 2000 Inc., in New York. The southern U.S. may be starting on a slow march toward more normal temperatures for this time of year, he said.

Break From Cold

Usually, even in very cold winters, there will have been two or three periods where temperatures get above freezing for a week or more in the northern part of the country, Schlacter said.

“What is remarkable is that we haven’t had any thaws,” Schlacter said.

Temperatures by weekend may reach the low 40s in New York, according to the weather service. Schlacter said that won’t mean winter’s back is broken, especially in the north.

“The undoing of winter in the Northeast will be a gradual affair,” said Jim N.R. Dale, founder of commercial forecaster British Weather Services in Hazlemere, High Wycombe, England. “The second half of February is likely to be much less fraught than the first half.”

New York and Philadelphia probably won’t see the heavy snows they received though February last year, said Joe Bastardi, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

New York City and Philadelphia have had the core of their winter from December 26 to January 26,” Bastardi said.

With assistance from Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas and Moming Zhou and Christine Buurma in New York. Editors: Charlotte Porter, Joseph Link

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net

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