SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The blast of freezing rain and snow that disrupted schools and businesses across much of Texas for two days was expected to begin moving out, giving roads and residents a chance to thaw.
Students who enjoyed extended weekends after Martin Luther King Jr. Day were to head back to class Thursday in San Antonio, Houston and Austin as transportation officials reopened some roadways that were closed because of icy conditions.
The reprieve from the winter blast may be short-lived for parts of northern and western Texas, where weather officials predicted cold and possible snow for Friday and the weekend.
The storm that paralyzed the eastern half of the country had much of Texas hunkered down against a rare onslaught of snow and ice. At least 65 storm-related deaths have been reported in nine states, including 10 in Texas.
The Alamo was closed Tuesday and Wednesday morning, as were schools and offices in San Antonio, Houston and Austin after most of the state got more winter weather than it was prepared for.
Accumulations were light by some other regions’ standards — the Dallas area topped out at 3 inches of snow — but hundreds of airline flights were canceled and tens of thousands of electricity customers lost power.
The Texas Department of Transportation urged motorists to stay off the roads early Thursday morning and warned that black ice remained a risk, especially in the southern two-thirds of the state. A 300-mile stretch of Interstate 10 from Fort Stockton to San Antonio remained closed early Thursday after being shut down Tuesday.
Marc and Courtney Unger, visiting San Antonio with their 3- and 7-year-old boys from Tallahassee, Fla., found most of their plans wrecked by the cold weather and closed attractions.
Instead of visiting the Alamo, the Children's Museum or other attractions, the boys amused themselves by knocking icicles off signs and benches.
“We’re very disappointed it didn’t go those few extra degrees colder for snow,” Unger said.
But a tourist from Michigan found the huddling masses laughable.
“I just died laughing,” said Dale Barber, of Sandusky, Mich., as he stood near the Alamo on Wednesday in a lightweight jacket and jeans. “These people from San Antonio come in with their big parkas. I thought, ‘Oh, come on.’”
In Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, roads and freeways with soaring — and ice-slicked — exit ramps were largely empty Wednesday morning. Motorists inexperienced at driving on ice awoke to light snow and icicle-draped cars — and called in for a day off.
For Houston, the state's largest city, the storm was more inconvenience than natural disaster, as temperatures rose barely above freezing shortly after sunrise.
A Houston city employee was killed early Wednesday when he was hit by a car and knocked over a guardrail as he and a co-worker tried to help an accident victim, said Frank Michel, spokesman for Houston Mayor Bill White.
"Very tragic," Michel said. "He was attempting to be a good Samaritan and lost his life."
In Austin, classes were canceled for a second straight day at the University of Texas and few people ventured outside, even though most businesses were open near campus. Classes were to resume Thursday morning.
Clay Spivey, 20, was clad in a denim jacket and shivering, but not complaining.
"It's kinda nice 'cause it's different," he said. "It's not 100 degrees."
In Dallas, public schools were open, but because of an erroneous television report, many parents kept their children home.
The weather was causing power outages around San Antonio as ice-laden tree limbs snapped and downed power lines. As many as 65,000 customers lost power at the height of the storm late Tuesday and 16,000 remained without power Wednesday afternoon, said CPS Energy spokesman Rolando Romero.
More than 250 flights out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport were canceled Wednesday. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport canceled 102 flights, while San Antonio International Airport canceled 23 morning flights and Houston's two major airports experienced delays.
In Oklahoma, the ice storm has been blamed for at least 23 deaths, most from motor vehicle accidents.
In California, a four-night cold snap wiped out as much as three-quarters of the state's citrus and harmed virtually every other winter crop, from avocados to flowers.
Texas citrus growers in the usually balmy Rio Grande Valley also suffered a cold snap, but it wasn't severe enough to damage crops, said John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association.
"The weather's nowhere near cold enough to do anything here," he said, noting that Texas growers might get a small windfall because of the California freeze.
Associated Press writers Liz Austin Peterson in Austin, Rasha Madkour in Houston, Alicia A. Caldwell in El Paso, Lynn Brezosky in Harlingen and Terry Wallace and Matt Curry in Dallas contributed to this report.