On This Day...Dec 30, 1983, 1978

On This Day....

December 30, 1983

At 3 pm, the temperature at D/FW Airport finally rose above freezing, marking the end of 295 consecutive hours below freezing. This remains the longest period with consecutive hours below freezing (on record) for the Metroplex.
(Freeze Summary For D/FW)

In North Texas, at least six people died as a result of the cold during this bitter cold period at the end of the month. Most of the fatalities were the elderly that froze to death in their homes. At least two persons died of exposure, while one person died in an auto accident in Denton on ice covered roads on the 21st.

Scores of people were injured during the cold spell when drizzle coated the ground on the night of the 18th, and during the day on the 21st and 27th. While amounts were very small, such as .03 inch liquid precipitation at DFW on the 21st, the ice coating made not only driving hazardous, but simply walking outside became nearly impossible. One hospital in Tyler admitted over 70 people for injuries on the 27th, most being broken bones sustained in falls on ice.

Utility companies were hard pressed to meet consumer demands during the siege of cold air. Gas and electric companies had to curtail commercial usage, closing a number of plants and businesses for several days. Water systems suffered tremendous problems from the cold. The Fort Worth Water Department had nearly 1000 water line breaks, with some customers being without water for three days. Some smaller rural systems were shut down entirely for days until frozen pumps could thaw.

Damages from broken water lines alone amounted to millions for dollars. The cost of repairing broken city lines in Fort Worth was estimated at least $1.5 million, which excluded repairs to homes and business. Several million dollars more damage occurred when lines broke inside buildings and ruined walls, ceilings, floors, and furnishings.

Agricultural losses were extremely high, with estimates in the tens of millions of dollars. Insurance adjusters said initial claims for the state were in excess of $50 million and could easily pass $100 million. 1

The bitterly cold temperatures were not confined to North Texas, as the eastern two-thirds of the country endured record low temperatures and extreme wind chills during the last half of the month. Nationally, the abnormally cold temperatures were responsible for at least 151 deaths between Dec 15-31. Most of the deaths were concentrated in the southern states where people are unprepared for such a long period of freezing temperatures. 1

 1 Data Source: Storm Data Publication - December 1983

December 30-31, 1978

At 6 pm, one of the worst ice storms in 30 years began as freezing drizzle over much of North Texas. By late evening, the precipitation changed to freezing rain and sleet which continued through the morning of the 31st.

One to two inch accumulations of ice and sleet resulted in moderate to heavy damage in a 100 mile wide swath from near Gatesville northeast to the Red River near Paris. Lighter damage occurred throughout the remainder of North Central Texas and the western portion of Northeast Texas.

The most severe damage seemed to be centered in Dallas County. Trees and power lines began breaking in the Dallas County area between 2:30 am and 4:30 am on the 31st, due to the stress from ice accumulation and the brisk northerly wind. Up to 300,000 people in Dallas County were without electricity on the 31st and the 1st and in some places power was not restored until 10 days later. In Duncanville, 90% of the residences were without electricity. Power was not completely restored until January 2nd. In Irving, approximately 10,000 families were without power and 300 phones were out. Dallas Power and Light Company used 200 crews and about $3 million in repairing the damage. Over 4,000 residents reported broken water pipes with almost 100 breaks in the street mains. 

The total damage estimate for Dallas County was about $14 million. One young boy in Dallas County was killed when he touched a downed electrical line. At least 5 indirect storm deaths could be attributed to the ice-related automobile accidents in North Texas. 

View Ice Storm Dec 30-31, 1978 in a larger map
Map of Hardest Hit Areas Based Upon Storm Data Narrative

Approximately 2,000 North Texans were treated at area hospitals for frost bite, accidents, and falls on the slippery ice. Several hundred were hospitalized with broken bones.

Other counties reporting scattered heavy damage included Hamilton, McLennan, Ellis, Navarro, Tarrant, Rockwall, Denton, Fannin, Lamar, and Hopkins. In these surrounding counties, tree and power line damage was common, with tree loss described as the greatest within 30 years. Many roads were blocked because of fallen trees and abandoned vehicles. Many residents were without power or heat for anywhere from a few hours to several days. 2

2 Storm Data December 1978 Volume 20 Number 12

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