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Ice storm slams North Texas before Super Bowl

FORT WORTH, Texas — A massive ice storm caused traffic accidents and power outages in North Texas on Tuesday but didn't stop festivities leading up to this weekend's Super Bowl.

Two die-hard Green Bay Packers fans had to postpone their 800-mile drive in a Cadillac convertible for at least a day as the monster system threatened to leave about a third of the nation covered in a hodge-podge of harsh weather, reaching from Texas to New England.

"We love driving in the snow," said Dieter Sturm, 55, of Lake Geneva, Wis. "We can handle that without a problem. The icy roads are another story."

He and Mark Madson, 58, of Clinton, Wis., were to leave Wednesday, a day later than they planned, but were determined to go on the road trip although they don't yet have tickets to Sunday's game that pits the Packers against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Madson's 1978 yellow Eldorado has "Super Bowl or Bust" and "Packer Mobile" painted on it, a surf board on top, bull horns mounted on the front hood — and a snow machine in the back, which they plan to use on the drive to Texas.

"What's better to actually take a road trip to the Super Bowl in an open-top convertible Cadillac through the wintertime? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Sturm said.

Bad weather didn't stop separate events Tuesday in Fort Worth and Las Colinas, where each team was presented a handmade saddle by Leddy's. Most star-studded Super Bowl parties were planned for the weekend, and both teams arrived in the Dallas area a day before Tuesday's storm that caused hundreds of car accidents, school closings and flight cancelations.

Officials who have been planning Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington said most fans had already planned to travel later in the week. Temperatures in the Dallas area were not expected to rise above freezing until Saturday, and Sunday's forecast called for highs in the mid-50s.

"I think that this is a minor bump in the road," said Tony Fay, spokesman for the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee. "It's not going to slow down the party at all."

Terry Clower, director of the University of North Texas' Center for Economic Development and Research, said the winter storm would not hurt the Super Bowl's economic boom because spending starts weeks before the big game with party and other event preparations, and doesn't end until the after the cleanup.

Part of ice-coated Interstate 35 in Dallas County was closed in both directions for a couple of hours Tuesday after 17 tractor-trailers became stuck or jackknifed, said county spokeswoman Kim Leach. No injuries were reported, but the southbound lanes could not be immediately opened because fuel from one of the 18-wheelers had to be cleaned up before sand trucks could come in, Leach said.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was closed for about two hours Tuesday morning and some 500 flights were canceled throughout the day. An electric provider, Oncor, reported nearly 27,000 customers without power statewide — nearly half in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

In Dallas, the ice and snow proved to be too heavy for a large tent on the Cotton Bowl field. No one was injured when the tent "came down quicker than we wanted to," and officials planned to put it back up Wednesday before the weekend XLV Party, said Ariana Hajibashi, the party publicist.

In Southeast Texas, there was no snow but winds reaching 70 mph damaged some structures. The weather service reported trees down and roofs ripped off buildings in areas near Huntsville and Cleveland.

Farther west, some counties in the Panhandle reported a few inches of snow, and temperatures in some cities were in the single digits by Tuesday afternoon.

As much of 8 inches of snow had fallen about 100 miles north of Dallas by mid-Tuesday, more than anywhere else in the state. Forecasters called for flurries of snow Wednesday and a slight chance of snow Friday, but said the biggest problem was ice- and snow-covered roads that would not thaw out anytime soon.

Thousands of Super Bowl visitors by early Wednesday morning were to shiver through the lowest temperatures to hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area 15 years, according to the National Weather Service. Single-digit lows expected Wednesday morning would be the first since February 1996, meteorologist Daniel Huckaby said.

A storm with snow and ice is not unusual for North Texas each winter, although the climate can be moderate. Highs were in the mid-70s just days ago.

Associated Press writers Carrie Antlfinger in Milwaukee; Schuyler Dixon in Fort Worth; Diana Heidgerd, Danny Robbins and Jamie Stengle in Dallas; Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston, and Paul Weber in San Antonio contributed to this report.