ARLINGTON, Texas - Six people were injured, one of them seriously, when ice fell from the roof of Cowboys Stadium on Friday afternoon, authorities said.
The accident occurred about 1:15 p.m. (CST) at the stadium, site of Sunday’s Super Bowl XLV.
Those injured were taken to area hospitals, and the two most seriously hurt were listed as stable. Four others suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.
The incident came on top of an overnight snowstorm that brought air and ground traffic to a near-standstill in the Dallas area.
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Thousands of fans were frustrated in their efforts to get into the area, and many local business owners cursed their misfortune two days before the NFL’s annual showcase event.
“When it happens in this part of the country. We don’t handle it well,” said Vance Martin, the owner of Lili’s Bistro in Fort Worth. “We don’t drive well. We don’t anticipate it well, and we just don’t get out on it. It just has a stifling effect on the entire Metroplex.”
The overnight storm was only the latest to hit the Dallas region this week. The ice, snow and a run of uncharacteristically sub-freezing temperatures forced the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers to move their practices indoors. Some Super Bowl-related events were moved under cover as well.
On Friday, the streets of Dallas, which had not been completely cleared of ice and snow from storms earlier in the week, were covered by a fresh layer of snow that brought traffic to a crawl. Nearly 900 flights into and out of the Dallas area were canceled, and disruptions in air travel continued into the evening. Snowfall totals in the region ranged from 2 to 8 inches.
Forecasts were for a possible mix of rain and snow on Sunday, with the high temperature about 41. However, the retractable roof at Cowboys Stadium, the palatial $1.2 billion facility that opened less than two years ago, is to be closed for the game.
“The stadium still has a roof on it,” said Bill Lively, the president and chief executive officer of the North Texas Super Bowl XLV host committee. “We had great plans. We just have to execute them as well as we can. I saw the sun a few minutes ago and we all celebrated for 15 seconds.”
Huge sheets of ice and snow atop the stadium could be seen sliding off the dome and crashing down 200 feet to the ground as temperatures warmed and the sun reappeared Friday afternoon.
“The ice and snow melting off of the Cowboys Stadium roof has caused several sliding snow falls onto the plazas,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an e-mail.
The ice reportedly began melting and falling on the northeast side of the stadium, Arlington fire officials said.
“It started falling throughout the day, causing minor injuries,” said Lt. Pedro Arevalo, a fire department spokesman.
He said ice falling from the roof of Cowboys Stadium was not something authorities had dealt with in the past and therefore wasn’t something they had planned for.
“All this stuff just keeps getting thrown at us, but we’ve been prepared and we’re ready for these types of situations,” Arevalo said, “other than the ice, that’s one thing we didn’t take into consideration.”
He added that authorities are confident they now have the potentially dangerous areas of the stadium blocked off and that people can get in and out of the stadium safely.
The accident forced officials to shut all but one entrance to the stadium.
“All stadium entrances have been closed except for the truck tunnel, which is away from the building by a very safe distance,” McCarthy said. “All workers and visitors will now enter and exit through the tunnel until further notice.”
Tours of the massive stadium had ended Thursday, so most of the people there were workers preparing the facility for Sunday’s game.
More than 90,000 people are expected to attend the game, with thousands of others expected to watch on video boards outside the stadium.
While many Steelers and Packers fans were already in town, the storm disrupted the travel plans of countless others heading to Dallas for the game.
Airport officials were hopeful the weather will allow a full schedule of flights this weekend.
“(Thursday), today and tomorrow are the biggest arrival days for expected Super Bowl traffic,” said David Magana, a spokesman for Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, “and we expect to handle about 40 additional charter airliners, about 40 added airline segments, and a healthy supply of corporate aircraft at our new DFW Corporate Aviation facility.”
About 850 workers and 74 snowplows, including an extra 44 brought in from West Texas on Friday, have been working to clear roads.
This week’s weather has gone beyond the worst-case scenario envisioned by Super Bowl planners, said Jodi Hodges, a Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
“It’s like with a hurricane response. The storm changes direction, and you adjust.”
Lively spent the day reminding people that the Super Bowl came to North Texas because of Cowboys Stadium, period.
“The stadium itself and the revenue generation from the game will be two of the things the owners will remember the most, but the media will see it differently,” Lively said. “We can’t control that. But we will do the best we can.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell remained upbeat that things will improve by Sunday.
“It’s been an extraordinary storm, and I think this community has done an outstanding job: One, of being prepared, and two, of implementing those preparations and those plans,” Goodell said. “They’re out working and making sure that everything goes on.”