MARFA, Texas (CN) – An unusually heavy winter storm dumped inches of snow across parts of Texas and Oklahoma on Wednesday, closing schools and creating treacherous travel conditions across the region.
The storm dropped the largest amounts of snow seen across rural West Texas since a storm dubbed “Goliath” descended on the region in 2015, with the National Weather Service office in Midland reporting 7.4 inches as of about noon on Wednesday. Other areas along Interstate 20 were expected to get more than a foot of snow, forecasters said.
The storm brought Midland near its all-time record for daily snowfall, when 10.6 inches fell in January 2012.
“This is a very rare snowstorm,” weather service forecaster Matt Salerno said in an interview. “This is probably like a once-in-ten-year event, I’d say.”
Police in neighboring Odessa, Texas said they had responded to more than 30 weather-related calls since late Tuesday night, as freezing rain and snow iced over busy local roads and highways in the heart of the nation’s largest and most active oilfield.
Salerno said temperatures in the region are expected to drop into the 20s and teens overnight, making already slick roads potentially even more dangerous into Thursday.
“Anything that’s out there right now is basically going to be crusted over, iced over,” he said.
Meanwhile, cold rain and sleet was reported in parts of North Texas as that region braced for another round of freezing rain or snow later Wednesday afternoon, while up to six inches of snow had already fallen on parts of Oklahoma.
The Texas Department of Transportation reported icy conditions on roads and interstates stretching for hundreds of miles across the state, from El Paso to the Texas panhandle and into North Texas.
In West Texas, part of the sprawling Permian Basin oil patch that stretches into southeastern New Mexico, no major impacts to oil and gas production were reported.
“Most of the time the operations can continue,” Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, said in an interview. “Sometimes these types of weather conditions will impair the vehicles and trucks getting in and out of sites, that can create delays, but as long as it’s not long and enduring it’s manageable.”
Staples said in the lead-up to Wednesday’s storm, oil companies had initiated enhanced safety measures like increasing equipment checks and reminding drivers to take it slow.
“So far the outreach that we’ve done with our member companies [has] not indicated that there’s been any incidents that they couldn’t handle in their normal routines,” he said.
The weather system that battered the southern plains states on Wednesday is expected to bring heavy snow and ice to the northeastern U.S. by Friday, while some southern states could see heavy rainfall and flooding.