DALLAS (AP/KXAN) – Hundreds of flights have been canceled in Texas, where frigid temperatures have left runways – and roads – dangerously icy.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Houston area on Tuesday and is warning mariners of gale-force winds along the Texas coast. Sleet and freezing rain are forecast for parts of the state.
Jim Halbrook, a spokesperson for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport said that between Monday night and the entire day on Tuesday, over 100 flights at ABIA have been cancelled (that includes departures and arrivals). Tuesday alone there were over 70 canceled flights.
Halbrook advised that travelers at ABIA continue to check their flight status as the weather may impact flight schedules Wednesday. Even though passengers may not see precipitation Tuesday night, Halbrook explained that ABIA will likely still need to de-ice planes because condensation on the planes will freeze. He added that planes de-icing will mean arriving flights may have to wait longer to taxi into their gates.
Tuesday ABIA began cancelling arriving planed after 8 p.m. because if the planes had stayed over night, they would have been covered in ice by the morning.
Flights into Houston, San Antonio and elsewhere have been canceled. Houston is enduring 21 degrees (-6 Celsius) and San Antonio stands at 30 degrees (-1 Celsius).
Police in Austin say highways in the capital are iced over and several counties opened emergency operation centers to coordinate emergency response.
Carriers such as American Airlines and Southwest Airlines say they have multiple plane de-icers in place at ABIA, ready to be used. Each airline is responsible for their own de-icing equipment, personnel and process.
Southwest Airlines cancelled more than 20 flights at ABIA Tuesday due to the storm. Southwest has two de-icing trucks at ABIA.
“We actually did de-ice one runway and one taxiway early this morning, I don’t know if we’ve needed any more since,” said Halbrook with ABIA on Tuesday. ABIA has the equipment it needs for de-icing, they just don’t have the occasion to use it very often.
“I bet half the population of Austin doesn’t even own an ice scraper,” Halbrook laughed.
He added that ABIA also has to focus on clearing ice from the elevated roadway where passengers are dropped off for their departing flights.
Elwin Williams III waited in ABIA ahead of his flight home to Northern California Tuesday, hoping that the weather wouldn’t delay him further.
“I’m a little bit worried, but luckily I have some friends close by so they said if my flight gets canceled, give them a call they’ll pick me up,” Williams said. “But we’ll see what happens.”
“Make sure you bring something to read or something to do because you may have to wait a while. That’s the joy of traveling,” he laughed.