The New Year will bring an extended period of below-freezing temperatures and moisture in the air, a combination that can lead to dangerous road conditions.

An arctic cold front is expected to push through Central Texas Saturday evening with slight chances of precipitation, said Patricia Sanchez, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 38 degrees Sunday, and falling temperatures throughout the day. Once temperatures drop below freezing Sunday, they are expected to stay there until Wednesday. Forecast lows will be in the low 20s Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

The weather on Sunday will include areas of drizzle and freezing drizzle, she said. Travel issues are of concern as moisture continues to accumulate in the air, Sanchez said. The system could impact driving conditions in McLennan County from mid-afternoon Saturday through Sunday, according to the NWS.

However, the chance for wintry precipitation is not expected after Sunday.

“Tell everybody to stay warm. That’s the big story,” Sanchez said.

By Sunday night Waco could see wind chills in the teens, dropping to single-digits by Monday morning.

Anyone over the age of 18 in need of a warm place to stay the night is encouraged to visit Mission Waco’s 56-bed homeless shelter.

My Brother’s Keeper, 1217 Mary Ave., is open for adults without cost. Those in need can register at the Meyer Center, 1226 Washington Ave., by checking in by 6:30 p.m. Due to the extreme cold, those in need can check in at the shelter itself until 10 p.m. to ensure everyone has a warm place to stay.

If the beds fill up, there is overflow space, said Kathy Wise, Mission Waco associate executive director.

“Next week is an unusual week,” she said. “It’s going to be multiple days with getting down in the 20s.”

No pets or children are allowed at the location.

For those with space heaters in the home, the American Red Cross suggests remembering the three feet rule. Keep a space heater on a level, hard surface and at least three feet away from anything flammable, including paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs. Also never use a stove or oven to heat a home. The American Red Cross also reminds residents that as cold weather approaches to remember to protect the pipes. Running water at even a trickle will help prevent pipes from freezing.

Anyone planning on driving New Year’s Eve or the first day of the New Year should also take care on the road, Waco police officer Garen Bynum said.

If wintry weather conditions develop, it’s better to stay off the streets, Bynum said. Anyone that can’t avoid travel, should at least travel around any bridges or overpasses, which typically are the first to freeze, he said.

The Bosque Boulevard and Highway 6 intersection is one of the first areas to freeze every year, he said.

“All those hills over there, it is an absolute mess, and people can’t get up the hills,” he said.

Drivers that do hit ice on the road should try not to overreact, he said. Often times, drivers’ first reaction is to hit the brakes or turn the steering wheel, he said. The quick action will throw the car out of control, he said.

Drivers should try to guide the vehicle until traction is achieved and either gradually slow down or accelerate, he said.

Following distances of three to four seconds for dry pavement should be increased to eight to 10 seconds when driving on icy, slippery surfaces, according to AAA Texas. Drivers should also remember to not use cruise control on slippery surfaces.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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