Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader
A rare winter ice storm closed multiple school districts and numerous roads and bridges across Southeast Texas on Friday.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana until midday Friday as temperatures remained near freezing. This result was just enough to make conditions hazardous on roadways for motorists and to cause school and colleges to close for the day.
Four of the five public school districts in Orange County, including West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District, Bridge City, Orangefield and Vidor ISD, along with Deweyville ISD in southern Newton County, decided to cancel classes on Friday due to icy roads and bridges.
The Little Cypress-Mauriceville Consolidated Independent School District opted to hold classes as schedule, albeit with a start time two hours later than normal.
Other local schools, including Community Christian, St. Mary Catholic and Tekoa Academy, canceled classes on Friday, as did Lamar State College-Orange and Lamar University in Beaumont.
The freezing rain left a swath of school closures from the greater-Houston area, which led the Houston Independent School District, the state’s largest district with more than 210,000 students, to cancel classes, across Southwest and Central Louisiana.
City offices in Beaumont and county offices in Jefferson County closed for the day, but business went on as scheduled in Orange County government offices.
The biggest problem was a light freezing rain and sleet that left freeway overpasses and bridges ice-covered and slippery, according to the Associated Press. Traffic was lighter than usual, but numerous traffic wrecks were reported, although none involved large numbers of vehicles.
Numerous road closures were a result of the icy conditions, including the Neches River Bridge connecting Orange County to Beaumont were motorists were in gridlock for more than four hours before the Texas Department of Transportation was able to open all lanes east and westbound.
The Sabine River Bridge, which connects Texas to Louisiana, was closed most of the morning and reopened to traffic shortly after 1 p.m., Friday. The Rainbow Bridge and the Veterans Memorial Bridge, both of which connect Orange County to Jefferson County, remained close
Motorists venturing into Louisiana found little relief, especially through Lake Charles as the Interstate 210 Loop was closed numerous times due to wrecks and ice. The I -10 Basin Bridge in Acadiana Parish was to remain closed throughout the day due to ice.
Delta Downs Casino and Resort even canceled its horse racing events on Friday night, Nutty Jerry’s in Winnie announced it would remain closed and numerous musical events, including the Jim Stanford and Moe Band event at the Julie Rogers Theatre in Beaumont were canceled.