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Dec 6, 2013 7:25 AM by Associated Press

'Ice Friday' bears down on Texas, much of Midwest

DALLAS (AP) - As Texas residents prepared for what one hardware store manager called "Ice Friday," schools started canceling classes and thousands of shoppers jammed store aisles to buy milk, pet food and other supplies.

Earlier this week, many in Texas were basking in spring-like temperatures hitting the 80s. But by Thursday, Texas was facing the same wintry blast that's hitting much of the U.S., bringing frigid temperatures, ice and snow.

At a Dallas Home Depot, manager James McGilberry said the store was already running out of firewood and ice melt on Thursday afternoon, as freezing rain and wind began hitting the region. Residents were preparing for a storm that threatened to slicken highways, freeze power lines - and leave them stranded through the weekend.

"It's almost like a Black Friday," McGilberry said, "but I guess we'll call it an Ice Friday."

The National Weather Service issued winter storm and ice warnings through much of Friday for parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Some parts of the Midwest were expected to see several inches of snow.

The system has already dumped 1 to 2 feet of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin and draped many communities in skin-stinging cold.

In the Dallas area, agencies and residents are still haunted by the fiasco of a frozen Super Bowl week two years ago, when an inadequate response to a winter storm crippled the region and left visitors stranded on impassable highways.

This time, all of North Texas mobilized before an expected half-inch of freezing rain began to come down. Temperatures are forecast to stay below freezing after the rain passes, meaning residents will have to contend with icy roads through the weekend.

The North Texas Tollway Authority had its 79 trucks stationed Thursday to cover 850 miles of highways with sand, and the city of Dallas went to a condition known as "Ice Force One," readying its own army of dump trucks to handle city roads. Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines and American Eagle canceled nearly 500 flights Thursday. About 250 flights were taken off the Friday morning board at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field.

Dallas and Fort Worth school districts lead a list of suburban and outlying North Texas school systems, colleges and universities that canceled their Friday classes. Numerous government offices also closed, but the Dallas Marathon's organizers had not made a decision whether to cancel Sunday's race, which draws thousands of runners from inside and outside North Texas.

Debbie Jones was at a supermarket collecting the ingredients for a warm winter meal in advance of Friday.

"I'm going to make a gumbo, then try and lay it in for tomorrow," Jones said.

In West Texas, many truckers had already pulled off Interstate 27 on Thursday, said Leilani Pierce, a manager at a Flying J Travel Plaza in Lubbock.

Students at Oklahoma State University were evicted by school officials from a makeshift tent community they set up ahead of Saturday's rivalry football game against the University of Oklahoma. Debbie McCarthy, the university's athletics coordinator of special events, told the Tulsa World that officials were worried about propane heaters starting a fire.

The city of St. Louis opened its first cold-weather shelter of the season and warned residents to dress in layers inside and outside if need be.

The same system swept through the Plains Thursday and dumped 1 to 2 feet of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. It forced cancellations in places far more accustomed to snow: Officials in Rapid City, S.D., said the weather was too cold for ice skating, and temperatures in Montana and Idaho fell below minus 25 degrees.

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