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Icy storm slams Southwest, shuts down North Texas

December 7, 2013

DALLAS (AP) — Freezing rain and stinging winds slammed the Southwest on Friday, covering highways in frost and closing schools and businesses, as millions of residents hunkered down for icy conditions expected to last through the weekend.

In California, four people died of hypothermia in the San Francisco Bay Area

Despite warm temperatures earlier in the week, Texas faced the same wintry blast that has slammed much of the U.S., bringing frigid temperatures, ice and snow.

The weather forced the cancellation of Sunday’s Dallas Marathon, which was expected to draw 25,000 runners, some of whom had trained for months. A quarter of a million customers in North Texas were left without power, and many businesses told employees to stay home to avoid the slick roads.

Friday’s storm stretched from southern Texas, where anxious residents bagged outdoor plants to protect them from the cold, through the Midwest and Ohio Valley and up into northern New England and the Canadian Maritimes.

People in the Dallas area raided grocery shelves and home improvement stores Thursday in advance of what one store manager joked was the Black Friday of bad weather — “Ice Friday.” Most people appeared to heed warnings Friday to stay inside.

The weather led to more than 1,000 cancelations at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, one of the nation’s busiest airports and a key hub for Fort Worth-based American Airlines. Many travelers were stuck waiting — and hoping for another flight. Those arriving in North Texas were having trouble finding cabs as many drivers stayed home. Dallas-area light rail trains were not running.

Rosibel Gutierrez Artavia, shivering in a light sweater as she waited for a taxi, had traveled from Alajuela, Costa Rica, to suburban Fort Worth to see family. Relatives called her before she left Costa Rica to warn her to pack warm. But she got the call when she was already at the airport.

“I did not come prepared with snow clothes,” Artavia said in Spanish.

Police in Arlington, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Dallas, reported one driver was killed when his car slammed into a truck. Authorities in Oklahoma reported two weather-related traffic deaths.

In California, four people died of hypothermia in the San Francisco Bay Area as the region dealt with freezing temperatures, according to the Santa Clara County coroner’s office. The San Jose Mercury News reported that three of the victims died in homeless encampments while a fourth person died in a garage.

Storms this week had already dumped up to 2 feet (0.6 meters) of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin and draped many communities in skin-stinging cold. The temperature in parts of North Dakota on Thursday was a few degrees below zero, but wind chill pushed it to nearly 40 below.

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