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6 hurt by ice falling off roof of Cowboys Stadium

North Texas' worst ice storm in two decades took a freakish turn Friday when six workers were injured by huge piles of ice and snow that fell from the roof of Cowboys Stadium, which they were helping prepare for the more than 100,000 fans expected to attend Sunday's Super Bowl.

The ice slipped off the roof on the south side of the stadium about 1:15 p.m. One man was hit in the head. He was reported to be in stable condition at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth late Friday. The other workers' injuries appeared to be minor, said Lt. Pete Arevalo, an Arlington Fire Department spokesman, said.

Afterward, city crews set up an 80-foot perimeter to keep people away from the falling ice.

"When the ice falls, it can drop about 75 feet away from the stadium. You can't tell where it is going to hit," Arevalo said. "We are not letting anybody around the area until we deem it is safe. That is the only thing we can do."

Friday's weather was memorable more for snow than ice. Snow began falling late Thursday and continued Friday morning. The official snowfall as recorded at D/FW Airport was 0.20 inch Thursday, which tied a record for the day set in 1959, and 2.6 inches Friday, which set a record for the day.

Motorists can expect highway conditions to improve today. The temperature is expected to rise above freezing for the first time since early Tuesday. And highway crews, already working round the clock, will step up their efforts to rid roads of slippery ice and to return Dallas-Fort Worth to a semblance of normalcy on the eve of the Super Bowl.

"We're bringing in all the reinforcements," said Jodi Hodges, a Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman. Forty-four extra snowplows were brought in Friday afternoon, bringing the total number of plows patrolling highways to 74.

"There's no way we can clear all the snow before nightfall, but we can make a major dent in it, she said."

'Back-to-back-to-back'

Although thousands of wrecks were reported this week, none caused a death until Thursday night.

Christopher Enright, 25, was driving a 2001 Chevrolet S-10 pickup north on CR 915A near Joshua about 7:23 p.m. when the truck slid into an icy ditch, Department of Public Safety spokesman Dub Gillum said. As he tried to regain control, the truck hit a tree and rolled over, and he was thrown out.

Enright, the lone occupant, was pronounced dead at the scene, the Tarrant County medical examiner's office reported.

Elsewhere in the region, less serious road emergencies abounded. AAA Texas reported an 80 percent increase in calls for emergency roadside assistance since the ice started falling Tuesday, "an extraordinary" jump in demand, spokesman Dan Ronan said. Just Wednesday and Thursday, AAA fielded more than 10,000 calls in Texas -- ranging from reports of cars sliding off roadways to batteries dying and other breakdowns.

"Our folks have been swamped," Ronan said. "It's the back-to-back-to-back nature of it all. You've got several inches of snow in Dallas-Fort Worth and an ice storm that stretches all the way down to Houston and over into Hill Country."

The treacherous road conditions didn't scare Felix Gomez, a construction worker who for three days has been driving in his truck around Arlington and Fort Worth pulling motorists out of ditches and medians.

"I just like to help people," Gomez said as he helped a motorist whose car had spun out of control along East Rosedale Street in Fort Worth on Friday. "I think it's fun."

In Trophy Club, treacherous driving wasn't the only problem.

"We got a couple falls from the ice," said Fire Chief Danny Thomas. He said a firefighter whom Thomas declined to name was briefly hospitalized after falling on the snow.

"We've had sanding crews on duty since Tuesday," Thomas said.

'Doing the best we can'

Those using public transportation fared much better. The Trinity Railway Express ran all day Friday, but behind schedule. Fort Worth Transportation Authority buses ran 30 to 60 minutes late and occasionally skipped stops where roads were too icy, spokeswoman Joan Hunter said.

Molly the Trolley was still shuttling visitors among downtown Fort Worth, the Stockyards and the Cultural District but with longer intervals between stops.

Some cities reported few accidents as many people stayed home. North Richland Hills police worked only one accident in four hours Friday but got five calls from motorists who were stranded or stuck, investigator Keith Bauman said. "We're doing the best we can to make sure everything is staffed with emergency personnel," he said.

'Slipping and sliding'

With the prospect of warmer weather, officials are preparing for problems such as leaking pipes. In Keller, officials said they will waive permit requirements for three weeks for plumbers working on pipe ruptures caused by thawing. The move is expected to prevent delays in repairs. "They just need to call us and let us know where they are working," City Manager Dan O'Leary said.

Next week could be nearly as hectic even if the weather cooperates, as workers in many cities may be fatigued from long hours during the storm.

In Weatherford, crews worked 12-hour shifts Tuesday through Thursday for a total of 413 employee hours, with 75 total truck loads of sand placed on streets, said Terry Hughes transportation and public works director.

Hurst city employees did not have to come in Friday until 10 a.m., but Diana Sears, police senior records clerk, was at work. "I didn't get the message until I was already here," she said, laughing.

She said there have been three reports of wrecks since she arrived, all on residential streets. She said there were not more calls than usual and assumed that people stayed home.

Saginaw, likewise, hadn't had any major accidents reported.

"Just the normal slipping and sliding, just like any other bad day," dispatcher Greg Gomez said. "Most people are just calling in to check on the roads and how safe they are to travel. Our offices are telling them to use caution if they have to leave, but it's better to just stay inside."

Andrea Ahles, Alex Branch, A. Lee Graham, John Henry, Melody McDonald, Susan McFarland, Chance Welch and Lance Winter contributed to this report.

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796

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