As the first day of winter arrives and arctic temperatures hit North Texas, the city of Fort Worth is preparing to react as fast as it can.

Although snow or ice are not in the forecast yet, Fort Worth’s transportation and public works department starts getting ready long before the first flurries fall, said Tim Moreno, transportation and public works superintendent. 

December and January have the two highest average number of freeze days during the winter season, according to the National Weather Service. 

Preparation for the next winter storms begins right after a weather event ends, Moreno said. The city has 87 staff members available to prepare the roads ahead of a winter storm. 

“They go out, do an inventory, see how much salt and sand that we utilized and then we’ll start ordering products to replenish our stockpiles,” Moreno said. 

When treating roads, the city’s first priority is the bridges and overpasses that receive the most traffic. After that, crews focus on hills. Finally, in coordination with Fort Worth’s joint emergency operation command, crews will treat the entrances to hospitals and warming centers. 

Fort Worth’s joint emergency operation command helps the city coordinate its response to emergencies between different city departments, such as the city’s water department, fire, police and road crews. 

Along with treating roads with a mixture of sand and salt after a freeze occurs, the city also applies brine before a freeze occurs. The brine is a mixture of salt and water added to roads no more than 48 hours before an anticipated weather event. 

Fort Worth’s sanding and salting operation differs from most northern cities in scope. In collaboration with the Texas Department of Transportation, crews will monitor and sand 222 bridges and 67 hills around the city. Crews do not treat neighborhood streets or even major thoroughfares such as Camp Bowie Boulevard or Rosedale Street. 

It’s a question of the type of weather North Texas receives, existing road infrastructure and resources, Moreno said. 

Typically, road crews are contending with ice rather than snow, which is harder to prepare for. The city also uses raised pavement markings, which makes it impossible to scrape the street clear. 

“We don’t get large volumes of snow. We don’t own snow plows,” Moreno said. “All we can do is react. The only proactive treatment we do is brine, and that’s a coordinated effort with TxDOT.”

Laying down brine can also be futile, Moreno said. If it rains between the time that the brine goes down and ice starts forming, the brine won’t adhere. 

“That’s not going to have that much of an effect, so what we’re really doing is being reactive,” Moreno. 

Being reactive can mean 12-hour shifts for Moreno and his crew. During the winter storm, some city staff slept at the office while their family may have been without running water or food. 

“We’re having to think of innovative ways to feed our people, eating box meals like the military,” Moreno said. 

The city maintains over 8,000 miles of lanes across the city. 

“There’s absolutely no way we can get to all the residential streets,” Moreno said. 

Changes following 2021 winter storm 

The department made several changes to their road preparation after the deadly February 2021 winter storm. The department learned a lot from the storm, Moreno said.

After sand froze in the trucks before it could make its way onto the roads, the city increased the percentage of salt that crews use in their sanding solution from 5% to 10%. The sand allows cars to have more traction while driving and the salt keeps the sand from freezing once it’s on the ground. 

“It was super cold for a really long time,” Moreno said. “Our infrastructure really isn’t geared for that. We don’t live up north.” 

Transportation and public works also improved communications by purchasing radios, adding training and changing the way the city treats hills — now you’ll see trucks going up hills backward so they have something to adhere to. 

This year, the city will have its own brine machine, which allows the city to make the brine solution in house, which will treat roads ahead of a big freeze. In the past, the city had to depend on the Texas Department of Transportation to coordinate the use of its brine machines. 

“We’re expecting it to hit the ground in the next few weeks,” Moreno said.

The new machine is a result of the deadly February 2021 winter storm, Moreno said. The equipment, costing $44,000, was allocated as a part of the 2022 city budget, but was finally paid for out of the 2023 budget. 

The Texas Department of Transportation’s Fort Worth District includes nine counties and 9,000 miles of state roadways. The agency works with local crews to pre-treat and treat roadways, 

Val Lopez III, a spokesman for the Fort Worth District, said in a statement. That mean’s Fort Worth crews have to share TxDOT’s resources with other state-managed highways. 

TxDOT was roundly criticized for its preparation during extreme storms after a pileup in a TEXPress lane on Interstate 35W led to six deaths and dozens of injuries during the February 2021 winter storm. In 2022, the company that operates the toll roads where the crash occurred closed them in the event of severe weather. 

“While no product or procedure guarantees the removal of all ice and snow from the roadway, we continually update our procedures and materials,” Lopez said.

Since the 2021 winter storm, the state’s Fort Worth district has increased the amount or brine put on roads and increased the number of plows to aid in snow and ice removal, Lopez said. 

In the event of a severe winter storm, TxDOT draws resources from other parts of the state to help respond to winter weather. 

“Because conditions can change and deteriorate rapidly during severe winter weather events, we advise people to stay home, stay off the roads, and delay travel if possible,” Lopez said. 

Here’s how you can prepare for winter weather

Temperatures are expected to dip into the low 20s Thursday afternoon, then dip even farther into the low teens Friday. 

Here’s how you can make sure your home is prepped for winter weather, according to the city of Fort Worth:

  • Make sure that all the pipes outside your home, or in unheated areas of your home (such as attics and garages) are insulated. 
  • Open cabinets to allow heat to reach the pipes under your sinks.
  • Turn off or unplug your irrigation system. 
  • Keep water on hand during freezing temperatures in case a frozen pipe or main brak cuts off your water supply. 

In case of a water main break, call 817-392-4477 or use the MyFW app to report the location of running water or buckled sidewalk. 

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Rachel BehrndtGovernment Accountability Reporter

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report in collaboration with KERA. She is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri where she majored in Journalism and Political...