Since Monday, Marshall, much like a large portion of the state, has seen an unprecedented winter storm, which according to the National Weather Service blanketed East Texas in over six inches of snow.
Freezing temperatures and heavy precipitation first occurred on Sunday night, causing local schools, and a number of local businesses, to shut down before the week even began.
Freezing temperatures continued through Monday, Feb. 15 before Tuesday, Feb. 16 night once again saw a heavy snow fall, with freezing rain continuing throughout Tuesday afternoon and evening.
Temperatures began to creep back up to the 20s and 30s on Wednesday, Feb. 17 and continued to do so through the rest of the week. Though as of Friday, Feb. 19 road conditions are still extremely dangerous due to the buildup of snow and ice, without enough heat to melt the cold layers.
The extreme weather conditions have caused state wide power outages, leaving over 2 million Texans without heat for a portion of the week, according to Governor Greg Abbott. On Thursday Abbott announced that the majority of Texans were able to have their power restored, with only 325,000 citizens still in the dark. On Friday, that number had lowered to about 125,000.
Waterlines have also been heavily damaged during the storm, with the city of Marshall declaring a boil notice on Wednesday when a number of small leaks were detected in the city’s water system, which was attributed to the significant demand for water and the frigid temperatures.
The boil notice remained in effect Friday at presstime.
There is a light at the end of the cold winter tunnel for Marshall residents this weekend, with temperatures climbing back up to the 40s on Saturday, and reaching 50 degrees or higher on Sunday.
Community members can still expect rain, with a 30 percent chance of showers predicted for Sunday evening. Next week will showcase several sunny days with temperatures reaching nearly 70 degrees.
Marshall is no stranger to snowfall events that brought the city to a standstill. Here’s a look back at a few historic snow events.
“Relief From Blizzard Is Expected Today” read the headline of the Jan. 19, 1930 newspaper, telling of the lowest temperature on record in years: -5 degrees.
“With the force of the two-day blizzard already spent, all of Texas tonight turned attention to damage done by the cutting winds and sub-freezing temperatures… The lowest temperature in the state today was reported at Vernon in North Texas where the thermometer nose-dived to 12 degrees below zero. At Houston an all-time low record of five and one-half degrees above was recorded. The warmest spot in the state was at Brownsville where the mercury reached 24 above.”
In East Texas, the newspaper reported negative five degrees early Saturday.
“Throughout the day, residents who braved the intense cold peeped from mufflers and upturned collars as they slowly and cautiously made their way to their destinations… Merchants stated that Saturday was the quietest day in many years, the usual large number of farmers and visitors being unable to reach the city because of the weather.
The newspaper reported no public service came in or out of Marshall except behind-schedule trains. Rural mail and milk trucks also made their deliveries.
The Feb. 4, 1951 paper reported four people were hurt in falls on ice and pipes were bursting.
“A frigid week of Arctic splendor turned into a mess of dirty slush Saturday under the influence of clear skies and rising temperatures as Marshall and vicinity began to calculate its damages and seek its recovery.”
J.W. Schonhardt, the city water superintendent, reported more than 200 emergency calls for broken water pipes.
Jay Harris found a good way to get around without tire chains after snow fell on Jan. 14, 1985: his horse.
“While the rest of the world spun its wheels or just stayed home, Jay Harris finds his trusty steed gets fine traction — without chains on its hoofs — at South Garrett Street and Pocono in snowy Marshall Thursday” reads the caption of a photo taken by Frankie McConnell.
The Feb. 3, 1985 paper reported fender-benders were plenty after snow fell. That Friday’s snowstorm “marked third year out of four that snowstorms have paralyzed the city. The temperature fell to 16 degrees before 8 a.m. Saturday, six degrees warmer than the year’s low, recorded Jan. 21.”
A Longview man used this week’s snowfall to check an item off his personal bucket list: to build an igloo.
An igloo with a 10-foot radius and that is almost 6 feet tall at its highest point sits in Zahck Israel’s front yard in Longview.
“I’ve seen where people have built igloos before, but we never get the right kind of weather for it. I always told myself if it happens, I’m going to build one,” Israel said Wednesday. “All of a sudden, the weather was here.”
When this week’s snowfall arrived, Israel immediately began watching YouTube videos to bring ideas together for how to construct the igloo.
Israel is no stranger to construction. He owns Longview Cabinets, which makes cabinets and other types of furniture such as bookcases. He also co-owns Ollie’s Skate Shop in downtown Longview.
When the snow arrived, he started making snow bricks by using Tupperware containers that he packed with snow. Israel said he made sure to use snow that was a little wet from sitting in the sun because it packed into the container better.
He let the containers sit until the snow bricks hardened and he could pick them up.
“There was a little bit of a learning curve to figure out just how to stack them together,” he said.
The most difficult aspect was finding a way to close the top, he noted.
“I ended up cutting those bricks similar to how you would a planter paver. I made them in trapezoid shapes and then I was able to lock them together,” he said.
While Israel said he wished he could have been working this week, the igloo provided a fun challenge. Once completed, he and his wife, Erica, spent time hanging out in it.
“It’s surprisingly warm inside,” he said.
Next up, he’s considering lighting a fire inside it. A fire inside typically melts an inner layer of ice and the cold outside refreezes it , adding an extra layer of insulation that can keep an igloo even warmer.
Beyond that, Israel has more projects and ideas on his bucket list.
“I’ve got way too many projects on my list,” he said.
After more than a week of subzero temperatures, the city of Marshall has been dealing with water concerns, impassable roads and emergencies.
“As temperatures begin to rise, icicles and rooftop snow are the latest danger facing the public during this unprecedented winter storm. Freezing temperatures have led to the build-up of ice and snow on homes, carports, buildings and cell phone towers,” the city released in a statement. “We have seen social media posts of collapsed buildings, carports, and businesses today due to the tremendous weight of the snow and ice. Continued cold temperatures with period of slight warming have created icicles that become larger and more dangerous to those who pass below them. Please be vigilant of this threat for your safety.”
The city dealt with water concerns beginning on Wednesday, Feb. 17 when citizens were urged to conserve water and to drip their faucets to prevent broken and frozen pipes.
Late Wednesday, the city informed citizens that due to excessive demand, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality required the city’s water customers to boil their water prior to consumption. The boil notice is still in effect and will continue. The city will notify customers when it is safe to discontinue the boil notice.
Public Works crews will be working continuously on Saturday, Feb. 20 and Sunday, Feb. 21 to diagnose and repair service line breaks. While there are breaks, the pressure problems are primarily attributed to the tremendous demand for water.
The city would like to remind all citizens to please conserve water, avoid any activities that require large quantities of water, and boil water vigorously for two minutes before consumption.
Road conditions throughout the week have been impacted by the weather leading to Interstate 20 being shutdown Friday at the Louisiana border.
“Road conditions are improving; however, the roads are still icy and will worsen tonight as the sun goes down and the temperatures fall below freezing. The Marshall Police Department asks that people stay off the roadways as much as possible. The Police Department has received an increase in call load. Many of the calls are due to stranded motorists. To assist those in emergency situations, we ask citizens to refrain from calling 911 for non-emergency situations,” Marshall Police Department Chief Cliff Carruth said.
Refuse collection is another problem the city is having to deal with and ultimately led to trash collection being postponed for the week due to unsafe roads and residential street conditions.
“Please understand that getting further behind is not what we want at all but will make every effort to get caught up and remove the waste off the curb and into the landfill as quick as possible. Therefore, our optimistic goal is to begin regularly scheduled trash only routes Monday and all curbside recycle and bulk pick up will be suspended until the following week. This plan allows us to utilize the extra labor and trucks to remove the excess volume of trash from the curb quicker and not run out of hours allowed by law. Thank you to our citizens for your understanding in this unprecedented weather issue,” Republic Waste Services released in a statement on social media.
Emergency services throughout the county and even in nearby Marion County dealt with a rise in calls to 911. On Feb. 17 at about 2:30 p.m., 911 received a call about a subject that had fallen into a pond on Berea 3. Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Parks and Wildlife Officers and Christus EMS responded to the call and after arriving on scene they found the juvenile already moved inside the residence with his mother, being warmed.
The juvenile was rescued from the pond by his neighbor and warmed and treated by EMS.
“The quick thinking of the caller and the actions of the neighbor helped save the juvenile from further harm,” the Marion County Sheriff’s Office stated.
To aid in preventing hypothermia, on Sunday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m., the city opened a warming shelter in the community room at Fire Station No. 1. Though the city is still compiling a total number for those who utilized the shelter, on Feb. 17, three individuals used the facility and the fire department also brought in an elderly couple who were without power in the early morning hours.
“We want to thank our community members who volunteered and provided hot meals for those at the shelter,” City Communications Coordinator Stormy Nickerson said.
East Texas school districts suddenly are tentatively looking to return to school on Monday after having a week of classes interrupted by two historic winter storms that blew through the state.
Winter storms one and two dumped almost a foot of snow on the region this week and lingering record low temperatures kept it in place, leading to most East Texas districts to either cancel classes completely or be forced to switch to virtual only.
As of Friday evening, Marshall ISD is still set to return to in-person classes on Monday after having students learn from home through virtual classes this week.
Hallsville ISD Superintendent Jeff Collum said his district will also return to in-person classes on Monday after having classes canceled this week due to the lingering snowfall.
Jefferson ISD Superintendent Rob Barnwell said his district also hopes to return to in-person classes on Monday after switching his students to virtual learning only the past week.
Waskom ISD Superintendent Rae Ann Patty on Friday said her students will not be returning to classes on Monday as the district is out all week next week on winter break.
Harleton ISD students aptly spent their winter break this past week dealing with one of the harshest winters on record and are now set to return to in-person classroom instruction on Monday.
Elysian Fields ISD spokeswoman Monica Simmons said her district will make a final call Sunday evening on whether or not students will return to in-person classroom instruction after spending this week on virtual learning from home.
Karnack ISD Superintendent Amy Dickson said she too will make a call on Sunday as to whether or not her students will return to in-person instruction on Monday as many roads in her district are still covered in snow and ice. Karnack ISD students spent the first half of the week learning virtually from home before having classes canceled due to the winter storms.