Icy roads lead to 21 deaths across U.S.

Published 2:47 pm Saturday, December 26, 2009

The winter storm that touched down in Austin shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday brought only a modest mix of freezing rain and snow on and off through Christmas Day.

Other parts of the Midwest were more severely impacted, however.

Slippery roads were blamed for at least 21 deaths this week as the storm lumbered across the country from the Southwest.

Interstates were closed in North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming. Meteorologists then warned that massive snow drifts and blustery winds could cause whiteouts across the northern Plains on Saturday, and officials urged travelers in that region to stay home and pack emergency kits if they had to set out.

In Texas, volunteer firefighters and sheriff’s deputies rescued hundreds of people stranded along Interstate 44 and Texas State Highway 287 near Wichita Falls. The area recorded up to 13 inches of snow, said Doug Speheger, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

“It’s really been horrible,” Wichita County Sheriff David Duke said.

Since Tuesday, icy roads have been blamed for accidents that killed at least seven people in Nebraska, five people in Oklahoma, four in Kansas, two in Minnesota and one each in North Dakota, Missouri and New Mexico.

Scattered flurries are forecasted for Austin Sunday night, with Monday and Tuesday expected to be mostly sunny.