Threat of icy rain quashes Austin’s New Year bash

Threats of freezing temperatures and icy roads has extinguished the City of Austin’s New Year’s Eve fireworks show and celebration.

The city canceled the fifth annual event Tuesday as weather reports predicted that temperatures in the area could dip lower than city officials had anticipated.

“We’re saddened that we have to call it but for the safety of everyone it’s the right thing to do,” said William Manno, the city’s corporate special events manager.

The National Weather Service has announced a winter storm watch, with the potential for hazardous driving conditions in the Hill Country between Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Light freezing rain could accumulate on elevated surfaces across Central Texas, including northern parts of Travis, Williamson and Hays counties. Temperatures are expected to linger from the mid-30s to low-40s Wednesday and Thursday, with the coldest temperatures overnight.

“The forecast for New Year’s Eve for Travis County is pretty much rain, but the temperatures are very, very close to freezing,” said Larry Hopper, meteorologist with the service. “Where it rains the hardest, it could cool a little faster which can lead to freezing rain.”

Travis County should see a tenth of an inch of rain or less between Wednesday night and Thursday morning while the Hill Country could accumulate about one twentieth of an inch of ice in that same time frame.

The free New Year’s Eve event was to be held at Butler Park, with live music, activities and art installations by the Thinkery children’s museum, as well as the annual fireworks display.

Manno said the city could try to throw the party again in late January or early February, minus the fireworks.

The city, which had budgeted $47,500 for the celebration and accepted in-kind donations worth thousands of dollars, said that rescheduling will help keep the city from losing the money.

Last year, 10,000 people attended the New Year’s Eve event.

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