<
>

Ice falls on people at Cowboys Stadium

DALLAS -- Jerry Jones has long looked forward to Super Bowl week, to the glitz and glitter sure to come with hosting the NFL's biggest and most-watched event in his showcase $1.2 billion stadium.

The leadup to Sunday's game wasn't supposed to be like this.

A long, cold week in North Texas took an even worse turn Friday when six people were injured after being struck by ice and snow falling off the domed roof of cavernous Cowboys Stadium in nearby Arlington. None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening, but the accident added to the general sense of frustration with cold weather in the Dallas-Fort Worth area this week.

The injured were private contractors hired by the NFL to prepare the stadium for the game. One man was hit in the head, another in the shoulder.

It was a jarring incident, coming two days before the game at the end of the season that saw the Vikings displaced -- twice -- after the roof of the Metrodome collapsed under heavy snow. No one was hurt.

The accident Friday wasn't the first involving icy conditions at Cowboys Stadium.

In December 2009, two workers doing maintenance on the icy roof were injured when they slipped and tumbled at least 50 feet. They didn't fall off the roof because they were stopped by what is basically a huge rain gutter. One of the workers broke a leg and suffered other injuries, and the other had a back injury.

This NFL season started fresh for Jones, who wanted his Cowboys to become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Those hopes were dashed with a 1-7 start, but the Super Bowl was still coming to Arlington and once Green Bay and Pittsburgh sealed their trips to the big game, Jones was happy to host them.

"Great tradition, outstanding teams," Jones said at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. "With what the Packers are about and what the Steelers are about, it makes a great game. If you're in my shoes right now as far as Cowboys Stadium is concerned, I'm really proud that they're going to be there. I'm proud for North Texas."

Yet the wintry blast has challenged everyone.

Temperatures were below freezing for the fourth consecutive day Friday, when more snow fell three days after an ice storm. Most Super Bowl events have gone on as planned despite uncertainty that visitors won't be able to get to Dallas or might cancel their stays.

After Super Bowl media day Tuesday, Jones used some of his business background to address the snowy start of the week -- and his hopes after that.

"In sales, you set expectations at one point, then you stop and you close with a big pot you bang at the end," Jones said then. "So I'll start with these icy streets and end with beautiful days at the end of the week."

After Friday's accident, Cowboys spokesman Rick Dalrymple said Jones was not available for comment and referred questions about the falling snow and ice to the NFL.

Most stadium entrances were closed as a precaution and officials raised the temperature inside the arena in an attempt to melt any remaining ice. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said workers were checking the roof for areas where there could be more issues.

"The likelihood is they'll have to get somebody up there to get the snow off as soon as possible," Goodell said. "They likely will be doing that in the next 24 hours."

The forecast called for temperatures getting into the low 40s under partly cloudy skies Saturday. There is a chance of rain or more snow early Sunday with the temperature again around 40.

The temperature won't matter to most of the 100,000 fans, who will be inside the stadium -- though it could be an issue for the 5,000 people with $200 tickets to watch the game from a party plaza just outside. Inside are the world's two biggest high-definition television screens, museum-caliber artwork, field-level suites and end-zone doors capable of sliding open, just like the roof.

But all those wonders took a backseat after Friday's accident.

"Safety is our priority, but we do have some unique circumstances around the stadium right now," Goodell said. "What we're focusing now is first the stadium and the people that were injured. Second is the safety of the people around the stadium, make sure that we can secure an area, make sure that they can continue to do what they need to do in a safe environment."

The accident came on the same day former Cowboys player Jamar Hunt settled his lawsuit seeking damages after he said he was hurt when the team's tent-like practice facility in Irving collapsed during a gusty storm in May 2009.

Attorney Michael Guajardo said Hunt received an undisclosed amount as a result of the settlement with Summit Structures, its Canadian parent, Cover-All Building Systems Inc., and two corporations controlled by Jones.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area received as much as 5 inches of snow overnight -- nearly twice its annual average -- and by Friday morning downtown Dallas hotels were selling ski hats and scarves alongside cowboy hats. A winter storm warning was issued for suburban Arlington, home of the $1.3 billion stadium where the Steelers and Packers are to play Sunday.

"It looks like, 'Oh, no, I'm back in Canada,'" said Sammy Sandu, a 32-year-old property developer from Kelowna, British Columbia. "It's just pouring down snow. Are we still at home, or have we left? We didn't drink that much last night, did we?"

Forecasters expected game day to be mostly sunny, with highs in the 40s, which would probably not be warm enough to melt all the snow and ice.

Sandu made it to Dallas with his father Thursday, but other members of their party weren't so lucky. His brother still hoped to arrive from Miami in time for the game, but a friend abandoned the trip after a flight from Vancouver was canceled.

Like much of the region, airlines were struggling to recover from a massive blizzard earlier in the week that brought up to 2 feet of snow and bitter cold temperatures to as much as half the nation.

More than 300 arriving flights were canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, a hub for American Airlines. The city's smaller airport, Love Field, was closed before dawn because of snow on the runways, but it reopened by noon. Love is home to Southwest Airlines.

Andy Williams, a 51-year-old attorney from Grafton, Wis., said he was frustrated to find his American flight from Milwaukee delayed for about five hours. He was already planning ahead for the worst-case scenario.

"If this flight gets canceled, I'll start driving down tonight," he said. "Clearly it's not my first choice but, at least you're in control of your own destiny at that point."

But the chilly temperatures were not expected to faze the teams competing in the real event, nor their hardy fans, who are used to cooler climes. The temperature in Dallas on Friday stood at 20 -- the same as Pittsburgh. Green Bay was slightly colder at 17.

"We deal with it very well back home," Steelers fan Alex Sax said on his way the NFL Experience fan festival in Dallas. "Here, they don't know how to deal with it. There's no plows. No salt trucks. When we drove from airport, we were the only car on the road."

Asked if the weather could affect future Super Bowl bids, Goodell said the conditions this year have been exceptional.

"We've had a winter to remember. Some would say to forget," Goodell said. "It's going to be a great weekend for us, and the weather's getting better."

The Super Bowl is scheduled to be played in Indianapolis next year and in the open-air New Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey in 2014.

Some Packers fans at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee found themselves delayed but not completely downhearted.

James Jennings, 78, was scheduled to fly out of Milwaukee with his 44-year-old son. They were taking a charter flight as part of a package for which they paid a total of $25,000.

Jennings, a criminal lawyer from Norridge, Ill., said he had absolutely no doubt that the flight would leave as scheduled.

"At $12,500 a ticket, are you kidding me? They'd get Evel Knievel to fly that thing."

Elsewhere Friday, the bitter cold seeped into the South, where icy roads were blamed for several traffic deaths in Louisiana and Mississippi. The system extended its grip as far east as North Carolina, where freezing rain was possible.

The frigid weather also disrupted natural gas service in New Mexico and caused water pipes to burst in Arizona. Snow- and slush-covered roads made driving hazardous across Texas and neighboring states.

Greyhound spokeswoman Bonnie Bastian says the weather snarled travel through Texas, Oklahoma and parts of Arkansas and Tennessee.

By late Friday morning, 23-year-old Katrina Smith had been waiting in the Kansas City terminal for more than 30 hours. She was supposed to be in the city just 15 minutes to transfer buses as she headed from Denver to Tulsa, Okla.

"Everyone here is going to go crazy," she said.

Back in Dallas, organizers of at least one celebrity-filled Super Bowl event planned to host their Saturday celebrations inside.

DirecTV planned to host a "Celebrity Beach Bowl" in a heated tent, with a lineup of stars and athletes including Josh Duhamel, Alex Rodriguez, Chace Crawford and Hayden Panettierre.

"We're full speed ahead," said Jon Gieselman, the company's senior vice president of advertising and public relation. "The show will go on. We were prepared for something like this."

Informaton from The Associated Press was used in this report.