AUSTIN, Texas — On Saturday morning, Dexter Bray was driving his landscaping truck on Interstate 35. As he got off at 51st Street, somebody clipped him, sending him into a tailspin ultimately hitting the wall.
"Once my truck came to a stop, he just – he burned off. Like, the guy drove off," Bray said.
Immediately, Bray's mind flipped to the pileup in Fort Worth on Thursday, so he jumped out of the car to flag down other vehicles coming down the off-ramp. Even as he got people to slow down, at least a dozen more cars crashed but nobody was seriously injured.
Since Tuesday, TxDOT trucks have been out spraying brine on roads across Texas. The brine does not allow water to freeze as quickly when temperatures reach 32 degrees. Instead, the chemical mixture holds off freezing long enough so hopefully temperatures rise and dry up the roads.
"We use a lot of brine; we're talking hundreds of thousands of pounds of it," Brad Wheelis, a spokesperson for TxDOT in the Austin area, said. "We had just [Friday] 300,000 pounds out with our crews to lay down on the roadways ... This helps with clearing and helps prevent freezing, but it's not a miracle solution."
Gov. Greg Abbott echoed what Wheelis said in a press conference Thursday.
"The effectiveness of the treatments will be limited because of the ultra low temperature," Abbott said. "The temperature will go so low and remain so low for so long, it will mean that there will be many roads across the entire state that will be extremely dangerous and treacherous to drive on."
Abbott received a briefing on Thursday warning every county in Texas will receive below normal temperatures, snow and/or ice, making any travel risky.
"Already, there are more than 1,000 roadway segments that have snow or ice on them, and the worst part of the weather, storm, hasn't even hit the state yet," Abbott said on Thursday afternoon.
"This is an unprecedented weather event. We are asking folks to stay off the roadways. If you do have to travel, slow down and drive to conditions," Wheelis said. "Just because you don't see a foot of snow on the ground right now, doesn't mean that the roadways are clear."
"I'm just really thankful for that aspect of it all. The cars and vehicles, that's material stuff; you can't replace people," Bray said.
Because there had been so many crashes early in the morning, law enforcement shut down roadways and ramps to state highways. In the Austin area, TxDOT said even in ideal conditions, it would take days to pre-treat all 9,000 miles of lanes properly ahead of a winter storm. For now, they're focusing on the high-traffic ones: I-35, SH-290, SH-71 and SH-183, for example.
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