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State Emergency Officials Urge Texans To Prepare For A Harsh Winter

Ryan Poppe
The Texas Tribune
Chief Nim Kidd, Texas Division of Emergency Management

Meteorologists believe this winter will be one of the longest and harshest on record. Since 70 percent of winter weather-related injuries happen while driving, state emergency planners believe Texas roads could become a more dangerous place.

The holiday season is underway and gas prices are lower.  It’s a combination that will lead to more drivers on Texas roads as winter sets in. Add the  forecast for a colder, wetter winter and Chief Nim Kidd with the Texas Division of Emergency Management says we’re looking at some of the highest numbers of crashes, injuries and deaths the state has ever seen.

“So, driving on Texas roads is hazardous, so please slow down, please give safe driving distances and please pay attention to the weather," Kidd says.

The National Climate Prediction Center in Washington D.C. is predicting that this winter, which is considered December, January and February, will be cooler and wetter because of El Nino. There will be more freeze days than in non-El Nino years.

Credit Larry Hopper / National Weather Service
National Weather Service

For San Antonio, specifically, 5 of the top 7 greatest snowfall years have fallen in El Nino years with the winter of 1965-66 getting the highest snowfall of 3.5 inches, according to the National Weather Service. However, the big snowfall of 1984-85, which was 15.9 inches of snow, fell in a non-El Nino year, NWS Meteorologist Larry Hopper said. 

"We haven't seen over an inch since 1987," Hopper said.  

Credit Larry Hopper / National Weather Service
National Weather Service

Kidd urges motorists to check weather forecasts and driving conditions before hitting the road.  And have a system for receiving updates about any approaching storms. He says it is also crucial to have a winter weather disaster kit packed in your vehicle in case you become stranded.

“When driving around Texas, make sure that your vehicles are prepared, that you have plenty of blankets and sleeping bags in there."

The DPS says that in the past four years, over 1,000 drivers have died on Texas roads during winter storms.