ARLINGTON – This week’s bone-chilling weather is serving as a test-run for Super Bowl planners, who are working out the bugs in their plan to keep traffic moving Jan. 28-Feb. 6 even if the climate turns sour.
As luck would have it, dozens of Texas Department of Transportation employees from out of town were visiting North Texas on Sunday and Monday, as snow and ice blanketed the Metroplex. The employees were here to be trained for possible roles during Super Bowl week, when they might be needed to clear highways for several million Dallas-Fort Worth commuters and an estimated 250,000 Super Bowl fun-seekers. But thanks to Mother Nature, instead of getting simulated training, the workers went out on the roads and helped with actual ice removal.
“I thought it was pretty cool, that these out of town truck drivers in Dallas-Fort Worth got to do their training runs with real materials,” said Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
Snow fell in parts of Tarrant County for several hours Sunday but mostly didn’t stick, although an overnight light rain made highways slick for the Monday morning commute. Crews spread anti-icing and deicing material on numerous highways near Cowboys Stadium. Areas east and north of Arlington, where the Feb. 6 Super Bowl will be held, bore the brunt of the wintry mix – but wrecks also snarled traffic on Texas 360 between Interstates 20 and 30.
The forecast for the next few days is for dry air and bitter cold. On Tuesday, the remaining moisture on Metroplex roads is expected to melt away, and although the high temperature likely will struggle to remain above freezing, traffic is not expected to be worse than normal.
Weather experts say it’s too soon to predict the weather Feb. 6. But since the Super Bowl attracts events for more than a week prior to the game – including parties, broadcasts and charity events, many requiring attendees to travel dozens of miles – chances are at some point during Super Bowl week motorists will deal with a cold snap.
“Odds are we’ll have a cold front pass through North Texas sometime during that 10 days,” said Nick Hampshire, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. “It’s just a question of whether it will be cold enough for winter weather.”
The council of governments will hold training sessions for shuttle, taxi and limousine drivers during the next three weeks, Morris said. Wreckers will be staged throughout the region to quickly clear accidents, and traffic centers where highways are monitored by cameras will be open around the clock. “We’re assuming there’ll be a major event and we’ve planned for it,” Morris said. “We’re prepared for the light stuff, and the heavy stuff.”
In Fort Worth, more Texas Department of Transportation employees from out of town will be visiting on Tuesday. The agency is prepared to nearly double the number of maintenance employees who will be on duty in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, if it looks like weather will be a factor on roads, spokesman Val Lopez said. These workers are coming from several areas, including Amarillo, Austin, Bryan and Childress, Lopez said. They’ll be temporarily assigned to Fort Worth, where their responsibilities will include ensuring there’s enough anti-icing equipment and manpower on hand to keep traffic moving.
Lopez said the employees visiting Fort Worth “are coming into town to familiarize themselves with the area, where maintenance yards are located.” Up to 130 employees with commercial vehicle licenses will be available in the Fort Worth district during Super Bowl week – about double what’s normally available – to drive large trucks and handle other heavy machinery needed to keep the roads clear, he said.
The agency also has stockpiled deicing material at strategic points in Dallas-Fort Worth, so it can be easily accessed if icy patches form during Super Bowl week.
The National Football League doesn’t have any special concerns about North Texas officials’ ability to keep traffic moving, no matter the weather. “We have a specific plan in place for Super Bowl, and met extensively with local officials on the details months ago,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an e-mail. The Super Bowl is still too far out to predict what the weather will be like, although meteorologists could be able to make an educated guess 10 to 14 days in advance, Hampshire said. “Usually at the end of January and in early February, we’re still getting a cold front moving through at least every four or five days,” he said. “Winter weather is not out of the question.”
Staff Writer Pete Alfano contributed to this report.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796