Texas suffers from ice storm, Alamo closes

SAN ANTONIO – The latest in a series of icy storms blamed for at least 60 deaths in nine states spread snow and freezing rain across Texas all the way to the Mexican border Wednesday, closing the Alamo, glazing freeways and immobilizing communities unaccustomed to such cold.

Accumulations were light by many regions’ standards – the Dallas area topped out at a half-inch of snow, and more than 3 inches piled up west of Fort Worth. But hundreds of flights were canceled, tens of thousands of customers lost electricity and a 300-mile stretch of Interstate 10, a major east-west artery, was closed.

Marc and Courtney Unger, visiting San Antonio with their 3- and 7-year-old boys from Tallahassee, Fla., found most of their plans wrecked by the cold weather and closed attractions. The Alamo shut down for the morning but reopened at noon.

Instead of visiting the Children’s Museum or Sea World, the boys amused themselves knocking icicles off signs and benches.

“We’re very disappointed it didn’t go those few extra degrees colder for snow,” Marc Unger said, laughing.

Storms nationwide since Friday have abruptly ended what had been an unseasonably mild winter in many areas, plunging hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses into icy darkness, many for days. Seven deaths were blamed on the storm in Texas.

In Oklahoma, the ice storm killed at least 23 people, most in auto accidents, and about 75,000 customers in eastern Oklahoma remained without power.

In the mountains north of Los Angeles, a sudden snowstorm brought traffic to a halt on busy Interstate 5. Snow mixed with hail also fell at lower elevations of northern Los Angeles County, leaving some neighborhoods with rare coatings of white.

California already had been suffering from an unusual cold snap that threatened many of its winter crops and wiped out most of its citrus.

In Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, roads were largely empty Wednesday morning. Motorists unaccustomed to driving on ice took the day off after waking up to light snow, trees sagging with ice and icicle-draped cars.

Many schools closed for the day or opened late.

Freezing rain and sleet were reported in Laredo and other communities along the Mexican border.

In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, icicles hung from famous fountains and other landmarks.

Tree limbs laden with ice snapped and brought down electrical lines in the San Antonio area, where as many 65,000 customers lost power at the height of the storm late Tuesday.

More than 350 flights out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, San Antonio and Austin were canceled as officials worked to de-ice runways.

About 50 motorists were stranded at a convention center in Ozona. The jailhouse lent blankets and pillows to the emergency shelter.

“They have air mattresses and cots for everybody – and pizza and doughnuts,” said Joe Stokhaug, at the shelter with his pregnant wife.

In addition to the fatalities in Oklahoma and Texas, the storm was blamed for nine deaths in Missouri, eight in Iowa, four each in New York and Michigan, three in Arkansas and one each in Maine and Indiana.

In Missouri, more than 128,000 homes and businesses were still waiting for power to be restored, but some residents were told the work could take several more days. More than 3,600 people sought relief from the cold at 85 shelters throughout the state.